How to Open RAR Files on Mac? 10 Free Extractors That Still Work
(Last updated: Nov. 30, 2017. See the NEW UPDATE section for my notes.)
So you tried to open a .rar file you downloaded on the Internet, or received from a collegue/friend via email. Then you get a weird error on your Mac, because the file couldn't be opened.
It's really disappointing. I've been there many times, since I use my MacBook Pro to communicate with others who are probably on a PC. In fact, I also ran into the same problem when I switched from PC to Mac a few years ago.
Luckily, I managed to fix it with an amazing app called The Unarchiver, the best RAR extractor app for Mac. Plus, it's still free. Meanwhile, I also tested dozens of other applications on my Mac, and filtered those that are 100% free and easy to use and you can read more below.
NEW UPDATE 2017.11.30
Thanks for reading this SoftwareHow tip. It's been two years since I first published this post. Things have changed a lot when it comes to unrar apps for Mac.
I was hoping that OS X (now we call macOS) could add this feature to its built-in Archive Utility app, unfortunately, it seems that Apple macOS team doesn't plan to do this. My MacBook Pro is now with the latest 10.13 High Sierra, and I have to rely on third-party apps to extract RAR files.
As for the best rar extractor app for Mac, the recommendation stays the same — The Unarchiver. It's still free to download and use. However, it's worth noting that the app has been acquired by MacPaw Inc. (the maker of CleanMyMac, an awesome Mac cleaning app) and is now part of the MacPaw family. You can read more from the press release here.
Also, I just found a more powerful app called BetterZip 4 — which allows Mac users to not only extract many types of archives, but you can also use it to create archives or preview content of an archive without extracting. Those additional features are not available in The Unarchiver or Archive Utility. I recommend BetterZip to those of you who often need to handle a different kind of files on a PC and Mac. Note: BetterZip isn't freeware ($24.95 for the paid version), but a free trial is offered. You can get BetterZip 4 from Setapp or download it from its official site here.
What about the other apps listed below? I tried to check them now and then, just to make sure they're usable and the information is accurate. But I find it so time-consuming because every year or so Apple releases a new version of macOS (to date, it's High Sierra 10.13.2), those apps that fail to be updated often can't run or malfunction. Therefore, I'd discourage you to check them out unless you are interested.
That said, I'll try my best to keep the content on this post as fresh as possible. Thank you for understanding.
What is an RAR File?
RAR is a compressed file short for Roshal Archive; it's a proprietary file format developed by Eugene Roshal, a genius software engineer.
Simply put, a .rar file is like a big data container that holds a set of individual files and folders inside.
Why use RAR? Because it reduces the size of your files and folders while keeping all the content 100% intact. With a RAR, it's much easier to store on removable media or transferred over the Internet.
According to this comparison image provided by Compression Ratings, RAR files achieve much higher compression, especially on multimedia files. They are also easier to split or to recover once corrupted than other alternatives like ZIP or 7Zip files.
How to Open an RAR Archive on Mac?
Unlike other archive files, for example, a ZIP archive can be directly created or extracted by using the default function on Mac (here's a tutorial), a RAR file can only be opened using third-party software...which, unfortunately, Apple hasn't built into the Archive Utility, yet.
That's why there are plenty of third-party applications available on the Internet that claim to be able to do that. Some are dated, while some require you to pay.
Thanks to those smart, yet kind developers, we have quite a lot of free options to get the job done without taking a penny out of the pocket. I've tested many and here are the 10 best free apps that still work.
10 Free RAR Extractor Apps That Work on Mac
Note: Some of the apps below are open source, and the authors accept donations. If you find the one you use is really awesome, kindly show your appreciation. Hundreds of hours were spent to make that product work well.
What's Your Favorite UnRAR Tool?
Does the recommened one help you extract or unzip your RAR files? Or do you find a better unarchiver app for Mac than the ones listed above?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.