(by JP Zhang | Last updated: Feb 16, 2016 )
So you tried to open a .rar file you downloaded on the Internet or transferred from a friend's hard drive. Then you get a weird error, and you can't open the file.
What a disappointment!
In fact, I ran into the same situation when I was switching from PC to Mac a few years back.
Luckily, I managed to fix the problem with an amazing program called The Unarchiver, one of the top 10 best RAR extractor programs I've shared below.
Note: you don't have to pay a penny to get the job done. I've tested dozens of programs on my Macbook Pro, and filtered those that are 100% free and easy to use.
What is an RAR File?
RAR is a compressed file. RAR is short for Roshal Archive; it’s a proprietary file format developed by Eugene Roshal, a genius software engineer.
Simply speaking, 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 provided by Compression Ratings (see image below), RAR files achieve much higher compression, especially on multimedia files.
RAR files are also easier to split, or to recover once corrupted, then other alternatives like ZIP or 7Zip files.
How to Open an RAR Archive on Mac?
Unlike other archive files, like ZIP files which can be directly created or extracted by using the default function on Mac OS X, a RAR file can only be opened using third-party software...which, unfortunately, Apple has not built into their machines.
That's why there are loads of programs available to do that. Some are dated, while some require you to pay -- and they are not cheap.
Thanks to those smart, yet kind, developers, we have quite a few free options to get the job done without taking a penny out of your pocket. Why pay if it's freeware, right?
I've tested a number of extractor programs, and here are the 10 best ones that are 100% free.
Note: Some of the tools listed 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 for you.
1. The Unarchiver
The Unarchiver is my favorite. Like the name indicates, it unpacks almost any archive instantly without launching the app. Most importantly, it's very powerful, and does what the built-in Archive Utility can't--extracts RAR files. It also supports handling filenames in foreign character sets. By the way, it's open source and works on both OS X and iOS.
Download the app from its official site.
2. B1 Free Archiever
Another great open source app, the B1 Free Archiver serves as an all-in-one program for managing file archives. As you can see from the screenshot above, this tool allows you to create, open and extract archives. It opens .rar, .zip, and 35 other file formats. Besides Mac, there are also versions for Windows, Linux, and Android.
Get it for free from b1.org.
UnRarX is a simple utility designed to expand .rar files and restore corrupted or missing archives with .par and .par2 files. It has an extraction function as well. To do this, simply open the program, drag your RAR files into the interface, and UnRarX will unpack the content to the specified destination.
Visit unRarX.com to download the app or learn more.
4. StuffIt Expander Mac
StuffIt Expander for Mac allows you to uncompress both Zip and RAR archives. I found the app very easy to use. Once the program is installed, you should see an icon (as shown on the top of the above screenshot). Click on it. Next select the RAR file, specify the destination to store your extracted files, and you're done.
Download the software from its official site (need email) or from MacUpdate (no email required).
5. MacPar deLuxe
Another great tool that can open RAR files, and do a lot beyond! Originally developed to recover missing or corrupted information by processing "par" and "par2" files, MacPAR deLuxe is able to unpack the data with its built-in unrar engine. If you are a Macintosh user who frequently downloads or uploads binary files, then most likely you'll love this utility program.
Download the software from this official page.
6. iZip for Mac
iZip is another powerful yet effective tool built from the ground up for Mac users to compress/decompress, secure, and share files easily. It supports all kinds of archive formats including RAR, ZIP, ZIPX, TAR, and 7ZIP. To unzip a RAR file, just drag and drop it into the software main interface. Another window will pop up with the extracted files. Super fast!
Download free from iZip.com.
RAR Extractor Free is an app that specializes in extracting Rar, Zip, Tar, 7-zip, Gzip, Bzip2 files conveniently and safely. Once you download and launch the app, you'll see a pop-up window that asks you to specify an "unarchive" location. To load your RAR files, you'll need to move to the top left and click "Open."
Get RAR Extractor Free from Mac App Store.
8. SimplyRAR (Mac)
SimplyRAR is another awesome RAR archive tool for OS X. As the name suggests, SimplyRAR is a simple to use program that makes archiving and unarchiving files a breeze. Open it by dropping the file into the application, choosing a compression method, and pulling the trigger. The downside of the app is that it will be difficult to get support from the developer, as it appears they're no longer in business.
Download SimplyRAR from MacUpdate.
9. RAR Expander
RAR Expander (Mac) is a clean GUI utility for creating and expanding RAR archives. It supports single, multi-part or password-protected archives. It also features AppleScript support and includes example scripts to help you handle multiple RAR archives at once.
Click here to download RAR Expander from CNET.
Zipeg is another handy yet free universal RAR and ZIP file opener. What I really like is its ability to preview an entire file before extracting it. It also supports password protected and multipart files.
Note: To open the software, you'll need to install the legacy Java SE 6 runtime (see this Apple support article).
Download the tool for free from the Zipeg official website.
Do you find this article helpful?
Does the software you use work as expected to unzip your RAR files? Or do you have other recommendations?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
I'll be around and happy to answer any questions you might have.