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RAR Versus ZIP: The Significant Differences Between The Two

In computing, archive files collect multiple data together into a single file for easier portability and storage. Archive files, in other words, store multiple files as one and keep the relationship between them the same as it was originally— with the added benefits of only having to deal with a single file which also weighs less due to compression. 

According to, approximately 250 or more archive file formats are widely used on the web. Two among that list in the discussion here are ZIP and RAR.

ZIP, an archive file format created in the late 1980s, supports lossless data compression and may contain more than one file. Similarly, a few years later, a proprietary archive file format was developed, among others, that supports data compression, error recovery, and file spanning. It was named RAR.

ZIP and RAR have always been compared with each other, throwing them into a rivalry. In reality, both file formats are equally popular and used in computers universally in equal measure.

The differences between the two are debated more because all software accepts ZIP, and RAR is mainly used in Windows. However, it does not mean that if you are not a Windows PC user, you have to keep using ZIP. Some Mac users prefer RAR’s performance and encryption algorithms and they can always convert ZIP to RAR. Click to know how you can quickly convert Zip files to RAR without losing file quality. 

Here, take a look at the significant differences between ZIP and RAR. 

  • The Difference in Origin – ZIP came into this world before RAR. Phil Katz created it in 1989 as a standard open-source format for storing a group of files into one archive. 

RAR stands for Roshal Archives, created by Eugene Roshal in 1993. It is a native file format of WinRAR Archiver, storing multiple files in compressed form and using less storage space.

  • The Difference in Performance – RAR’s overall performance is rated better than ZIP by users. ZIP, which uses the DEFLATE compression method, cannot compare to RAR’s compression algorithm, which generates files two times lighter than ZIP, even when it compresses HTML or WAV files.
  • The Difference in Popularity – While RAR takes the crown in performance, ZIP is still the more popular archive file format out of the two. It was created before RAR, which gave it a few more years to establish its user base. But, even with all the other archive formats on the Internet, including RAR, ZIP is still the most widely used globally.
  • The Difference in Software – The question remains that if RAR is more efficient, then why is ZIP more popular? One of the main reasons for that is their software. ZIP’s software is a free and open standard with many implementations and is supported almost everywhere, whereas RAR has proprietary software. It is not free and requires a third-party tool called WinRAR Archiver to compress or decompress its files.
  • The Difference in Security and Encryption Method – ZIP comes with built-in support for password encryption, offering better security to its users. RAR users do not have the privilege of built-in password protection. However, ZIP implements the ZIP 2.0 encryption algorithm, which is relatively weak compared to the systematic AES-128 encryption that RAR uses. So, it is all about the users’ priorities and the choice they make that matters in the end.
  • The Difference in Creation of Files – ZIP is not limited to its file creation programs like RAR. ZIP can create files with several programs such as WinRAR, WinZIP, Freebyte Zip, 7-Zip, etc. RAR is limited to only WinRAR when it comes to the creation of files. On the other hand, RAR can decompose a huge file into subparts, which is not achievable in ZIP.
  • The Difference in Filename Extension – For ZIP, the filename extensions are .zip, and .zipx. Whereas, for RAR, the filename extensions are .rar, .rev, .r00, and .r01.


To summarize the comparisons, both archive file formats have their pros and cons.

ZIP is the older of the two file formats and takes the lead in software, password protection, and varied programs in file creation.

Being relatively younger in creation, RAR is better in overall performance and encryption algorithms.

It’s hard to say which one between RAR and ZIP, would emerge victoriously and take the better position in the list of archive file formats. It’s even harder to say when, if ever. We can only hope that the list of comparisons above, detailing the significant differences between the two, will help you make a well-informed choice.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

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