RAR v/s ZIP – a Comparative Study

There are myriad types of file formats in the world of computers, and among them, the archive file format helps store varied documents and files in a single container. Even though there are over 250 known archive formats, most people choose between ZIP and RAR when compressing files. For decades, these two file types have been the go-to choice and thanks to them, it is hassle-free to send 100 or 200 files at one go. But are they different or the same?

ZIP has been a standard file choice and is most commonly used because most operating systems are compatible. RAR is also common, but WinRAR is required to create them. ZIP doesn’t require the help of any commercial or third-party support. So, many computer users prefer to convert RAR to ZIP to ensure that the files are supported across operating systems.

However, this doesn’t mean that ZIP is better than RAR. Keep reading to know how these two file formats are different from each other and make an informed choice.

RAR vs ZIP – definitions

ZIP is an archive file format that offers lossless data compression support, and it was developed in 1989 by Phil Katz. The format is widely used and supported by various software utilities. For instance, Windows and macOS come with in-built support for the format.

ZIP file formats can be opened easily with the programs that create those files. These files act as containers of data with several files compressed using ZIP compression. Users can compress or zip different files together using BZIP2, DEFLATE, WavPack, etc.

RAR, on the other hand, is a file format of proprietary archive type. RAR files contain various files and folders together, but they cannot be opened quickly as ZIP files. Third-party software is required for extracting and opening the content of the files. The RAR file format was developed by Eugene Roshal in 1993. In general, this file format works better than ZIP in compressing data, but you need WinRAR or other software to store and access the files.

What is the compression ratio?

In many cases, RAR creates smaller file sizes than ZIP. Sometimes, the margin can be quite huge. However, the difference depends on the type and size of the files that are compressed.

Ideally, WinRAR can compress a 310MB file to 90MB and has a 71% compression ratio. Whereas, WinZIP can compress the file down to 125MB and has a compression rate of 60%.

File format availability

On the question of availability, both file formats are readily available and quite popular among computer users. But ZIP has been around for much longer than RAR, and the support for ZIP is ubiquitous across platforms.

The ZIP format is supported natively by Windows and Linux, and macOS users will not have any trouble too. That’s why ZIP is considered superior when you want an archive format easily available everywhere. It is for this reason that software developers prefer using ZIP over RAR because they don’t want users troubling you all the time and complaining about the inability to extract some of the files.

When talking about archiving files online, the ubiquity of ZIP formats holds true. There are ZIP converter tools available that can convert files instantly and even store and compress them without downloading the files to the desktop. It is bandwidth-friendly and quite convenient.

Even though RAR is available easily, you need additional tools for compressing and decompressing the files. The elongated process is viewed as a hassle by many.

Speedy v/s speedier

Whether you are using WinZIP or the native ZIP support from the Windows OS, ZIP is fast for compressing and decompressing. But RAR is speedier, primarily when you use WinRAR. So, if speed is what you want, you have a clear winner.


The RAR format is proprietary, but the decompression source code can be achieved easily. WinRAR provides the code. But, the code cannot be utilized to build the compression algorithm of RAR.

On the other hand, ZIP is a standard file format and works with varied implementations.

Wrapping up

RAR and ZIP are both equally popular and widely used archive file formats. RAR is ahead in the race when it comes to speed and compression rate. But ZIP wins in terms of availability and ubiquitous support across platforms.

The choice of using whichever file format is up to you. Assess your needs carefully and make your decision. But no matter what choice you make, you don’t stand to lose anything.


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