Review: WinRAR file compression utility

Besides being ease to use, WinRAR has a great set of features for anyone looking to go beyond Windows' native ZIP capabilities.

In the world of file compression and archive utilities, WinRAR has been a strong competitor for many years. With a mature feature set and ease of use, is it the right file archiver for you?

Note: This review was performed based on a time limited, fully functional trial version of the software.


Who's it for?

WinRAR is aimed at users who need file compression and archiving capabilities beyond what Windows comes with by default, but that do not need the expansive feature set of WinZip Pro. WinRAR enjoys popularity in certain circles (systems administrators, people emailing large files) due to its ability to split archives over multiple volumes.

What problems does it solve?

WinRAR has a great set of features for anyone looking to go beyond Windows' native ZIP capabilities. It supports enough file formats to satisfy anyone. In addition, its feature set gives you the flexibility to create archives that exactly meet your needs.

Standout features

  • Archive Options: There are a ton of configuration settings for creating archives (including maintaining NTFS security settings and spanning multiple archive files), and they are presented in a way that is not overwhelming to the user.
  • Archive Profiles: WinRAR has an innovative feature which allows you to save a set of archival settings as a "profile" and apply the profile to new archives, which can be a real time saver.
  • File Format Support: WinRAR can create the popular RAR format files, as well as the common ZIP files. It extracts a decent number of archive formats as well (but not as many as 7-Zip).
  • Cost: WinRAR is price and feature competitive with WinZip standard. In addition, WinRAR is sold with deep price discounts when bought in bulk. Unlike WinZip, WinRAR gives free upgrades for life.

What's wrong?

  • Cost: WinRAR costs more than 7-Zip (which is free) and most users won't need WinRAR's extra features.
  • No "pro" version: WinRAR does not have the advanced functionality of WinZip Pro.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If you are looking for the functionality of WinZip standard, WinRAR is a great alternative. While it lacks some of the advanced features of WinZip Pro, it is more than enough for the vast majority of users out there. It is easy to use, and presents the advanced features in a way that is easy to find and use, but not immediately confusing for less experienced users.

WinRAR occupies the middle ground between WinZip Pro and 7-Zip, and its license terms make it a better value than WinZip Standard, despite the identical up-front price. What is very attractive about WinRAR is the licensing terms. With a perpetual license and free upgrades for life, WinRAR is much more budget friendly than WinZip. Compared to 7-Zip, WinRAR is a friendlier to use and more full featured.

If you are looking for a full-featured file archive and compression tool at a reasonable price, and without a regular maintenance cost or periodic "upgrade tax," WinRAR is the right application for you. If you do not mind the clumsy interface of 7-Zip or the limited Windows default compression capabilities, stick with those.

User rating

Have you encountered or used the WinRAR file compression utility? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

Read our field-tested reviews of hardware and software in TechRepublic's Product Spotlight newsletter, delivered each Thursday. We explain who would use the product and describe what problem the product is designed to solve. Automatically sign up today!

Next Page (Photo Gallery) >>