RAR (file format)

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RAR file format
Filename extension
.rar, .rev, .r00, .r01
Internet media type
Uniform Type Identifier (UTI)com.rarlab.rar-archive
Magic number52 61 72 21 1A 07 00
(RAR 1.5 to 4.0)
52 61 72 21 1A 07 01 00
(RAR 5+) [1]
Developed byEugene Roshal
Initial releaseMarch 1993; 28 years ago (1993-03)[2]
Type of formatarchive format
Open format?No (decompression source code is available, but it's not free software due to the restriction that it must not be used to reverse engineer the RAR compression algorithm)

RAR is a proprietary[3] archive file format that supports data compression, error recovery and file spanning. It was developed in 1993 by Russian software engineer Eugene Roshal (the name RAR stands for Roshal Archive) and the RAR software is licensed by win.rar GmbH.[3]

This is not to be confused with the unrelated Resource Adapter Archive file format which also uses the "rar" extension.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

File format[edit]

The filename extensions used by RAR are .rar for the data volume set and .rev for the recovery volume set. Previous versions of RAR split large archives into several smaller files, creating a "multi-volume archive". Numbers were used in the file extensions of the smaller files to keep them in the proper sequence. The first file used the extension .rar, then .r00 for the second, and then .r01, .r02, etc.

RAR compression applications and libraries (including GUI based WinRAR application for Windows, console rar utility for different OSes and others) are proprietary software, to which Alexander L. Roshal,[3] the elder brother of Eugene Roshal, owns the copyright. Version 3 of RAR is based on Lempel-Ziv (LZSS) and prediction by partial matching (PPM) compression, specifically the PPMd implementation of PPMII by Dmitry Shkarin.[10]

The minimum size of a RAR file is 20 bytes. The maximum size of a RAR file is 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 (263−1) bytes, which is 8 exbibytes minus 1 byte.[11]


The RAR file format revision history:

  • 1.3 – the first public version, does not have the "Rar!" signature.
  • 1.5 – changes are not known.
  • 2.0 – released with WinRAR 2.0 and Rar for MS-DOS 2.0; features the following changes:
    • Multimedia compression for true color bitmap images and uncompressed audio.
    • Up to 1 MiB compression dictionary.
    • Introduces archives data recovery protection record.
  • 2.9[note 1] – released in WinRAR version 3.00. Feature changes in this version include:
    • File extensions is changed from {volume name}.rar, {volume name}.r00, {volume name}.r01, etc. to {volume name}.part001.rar, {volume name}.part002.rar, etc.
    • Encryption of both file data and file headers.
    • Improves compression algorithm using 4 MiB dictionary size, Dmitry Shkarin's PPMII algorithm for file data.
    • Optional creation of "recovery volumes" (.rev files) with redundancy data, which can be used to reconstruct missing files in a volume set.
    • Support for archive files larger than 9 GiB.
    • Support for Unicode file names stored in UTF-16 little endian format.
  • 5.0 – supported by WinRAR 5.0 and later. Changes in this version:
    • Maximum compression dictionary size increased to 1 GiB (default for WinRAR 5.x is 32 MiB and 4 MiB for WinRAR 4.x).
    • Maximum path length for files in RAR and ZIP archives is increased up to 2048 characters.
    • Support for Unicode file names stored in UTF-8 format.
    • Faster compression and decompression.
    • Multicore decompression support.
    • Greatly improves recovery.
    • Optional AES encryption increased from 128-bit to 256-bit.
    • Optional 256-bit BLAKE2 file hash instead of a default 32-bit CRC32 file checksum.
    • Optional duplicate file detection.
    • Optional NTFS hard and symbolic links.
    • Optional Quick Open Record. Rar4 archives had to be parsed before opening as file names were spread throughout the archive, slowing operation particularly with slower devices such as optical drives, and reducing the integrity of damaged archives. Rar5 can optionally create a "quick open record", a special archive block at the end of the file that contains the names of files included, allowing archives to be opened faster.
    • Removes specialized compression algorithms for Itanium executables, text, raw audio (WAV), and raw image (BMP) files; consequently some files of these types compress better in the older RAR (4) format with these options enabled than in RAR5.
  1. ^ WinRAR 5.0 and RAR for Android refer to this format as RAR4.


Operating system support[edit]

Software is available for Microsoft Windows (named WinRAR), Linux, FreeBSD, macOS, and Android; archive extraction is supported natively in Chrome OS. WinRAR supports the Windows graphical user interface (GUI); other versions named RAR run as console commands. Later versions are not compatible with some older operating systems previously supported:

Creating RAR files[edit]

RAR files can be created only with commercial software WinRAR (Windows), RAR[14] for Android, command-line RAR (Windows, MS-DOS, macOS, Linux, and FreeBSD), and other software that has written permission from Alexander Roshal or uses copyrighted code under license from Roshal. The software license agreements forbid reverse engineering.[3]

Third-party software for extracting RAR files[edit]

Several programs can unpack the file format.

  • RARLAB distributes the C++ source code and binaries for a command-line unrar program.[15] The license permits its use to produce software capable of unpacking, but not creating, RAR archives, without having to pay a fee. It is not a free software license.
  • 7-Zip, a free and open-source program, starting from 7-Zip version 15.06 beta[16] can unpack RAR5 archives, using the RARLAB unrar code.
  • PeaZip is a free RAR unarchiver for Microsoft Windows, licensed under the LGPL, it also runs as a RAR extractor on Linux and BSD, with a GUI. PeaZip supports both pre-RAR5 .rar files, and files in the new RAR5 format.
  • The Unarchiver is a proprietary software unarchiver for RAR and other formats. It runs on macOS, and the command-line version, unar, also runs on Windows and on Linux. It supports all versions of the RAR archive format, including RAR3 and RAR5.[17][18][19]
  • UNRARLIB (UniquE RAR File Library),[20] an older version of the unrar source, provided the basis for an obsolete free software unarchiving library called "unrarlib", licensed under the GPL. It could only decompress archives created by RAR versions prior to 2.9; archives created by RAR 2.9 and later use different formats not supported by this library. The original development-team ended work on this library in 2007.[21][22][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ RAR 5.0 technote
  2. ^ "Interview by correspondence" (in Russian). 1997–2002. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d win.rar GmbH. "RAR and WinRAR END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT (EULA)". RARLAB. The author and holder of the copyright of the software is Alexander L. Roshal. [...] Neither RAR binary code, WinRAR binary code, UnRAR source or UnRAR binary code may be used or reverse engineered to re-create the RAR compression algorithm, which is proprietary, without written permission.
  4. ^ "The Java EE 5 Tutorial". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  5. ^ "RAR abbreviation stands for Resource Adapter Archive". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  6. ^ "Resource Adapter aRchive - How is Resource Adapter aRchive abbreviated?". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  7. ^ "9 Packaging and Deploying Resource Adapters". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  8. ^ "Apache Maven RAR Plugin". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  9. ^ "java - Is Resource Adapter Archive (RAR) the same as Roshal ARchive (RAR)? - Stack Overflow". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  10. ^ Christian Scheurer (2006-12-17). "unrarlib FAQ".
  11. ^ "WinRAR description". Retrieved 2013-05-01.
  12. ^ a b WinRAR Release History; RARsoft.
  13. ^ a b FreeDOS general questions.
  14. ^ "RAR - Apps on Google Play". play.google.com. Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  15. ^ "RarLab downloads: freeware UnRAR source and binaries download". RarLab.com. The license states: "The source code of UnRAR utility is freeware".
  16. ^ "7-Zip / Discussion / Open Discussion: 7-Zip 15.06 beta". sourceforge.net. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  17. ^ The Unarchiver Website contains unar. Accessed 5 February 2013.
  18. ^ Free Software Foundation on The Unarchiver
  19. ^ The Unarchiver changes. Accessed Jun 10, 2016. On Internet Archive.
  20. ^ a b "Home". UnRarLib.org. UniquE RAR File Library. 2007.
  21. ^ "Features". UnRarLib.org. UniquE RAR File Library. 2002.
  22. ^ "FAQ". UnRarLib.org. UniquE RAR File Library. December 2011.

External links[edit]