Zip Files vs Rar Files

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Zip Files vs Rar Files

Hello lovely ladies and gents.

I wanted to start a thread topic to explain to people what the difference is between a .zip file and a .rar file because I've been receiving e-mails from people who are unable to open my .rar files in the monthly blog trains.

So here's a bit of an explanation:

There was a time long long ago (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth... yes, I'm that old) when .rar files were actually more popularly used than .zip files on the internet. But it seems that it's now the other way around, .zip has now become more popular than .rar.

So what's the difference ?

Well, there isn't really much of a difference between the two files types other than the file extension name (zip or rar). Both file types are "compressed" files, meaning that you can take a bunch of files and "compress" them together into one file (zip or rar). What this does is it greatly reduces the total size of the gathered files and it also enables people to download one file with the simple click of their mouse button instead of downloading a whole bunch of individual files, one at a time.

Although .rar and .zip files are pretty much the same thing, there is one very important key difference between the two: compressed file size

Let's say I have a mini kit that I want to offer people for download. And let's say the total of all of my graphics in my kit in one folder uncompressed comes out to be 82MB in size.

Now, if I compress the folder into a .zip file, the size reduces down to 79MB... that saves me 3MB of server storage space on the internet.

But if I compress that exact same folder into a .rar file, the file will reduce down to 78MB... for a total space savings of 4MB.

Rar files compress down tighter and smaller than zip files, and that's why I choose to make them into .rar files rather than .zip files... saved server storage space !

Server storage space on the internet costs money. Or if you choose to use free storage space that a lot of places on the internet offer these days, they limit you to the total amount of space you can use (most places will only offer a maximum of 10GB of free space allowed and a limit of upload file size to be no bigger than 250MB).

So storage space and the total size of your file that you want to upload to the server is very important to be mindful of... every kilobyte and megabyte counts, literally.

But the one and only problem with .rar files is that for some unknown reason Windows decided they only want their default unzip program to be able to unzip .zip files only, and no other types. So people who use the windows default program to unzip (open) files will only be able to open .zip file type extensions.

Okay, so you have a .rar file that you want to open, but can't. Now what ?

Well that problem can be solved in less than 5 minutes.

There's a great program on the internet available for free called 7-Zip. It's completely free to use, and best of all, it will open any and every compressed file type (.zip, .rar, .gzip, .arj, .tgz, .7z, .wim, etc etc) that the windows program won't. So no matter what type of program the other person used to make the compressed (zipped) file... you'll be able to unpack (open) it with 7-Zip.

You can download the 7-Zip program for free HERE

Just download and install the program onto your computer and you're good to go. It's a very small program and only takes a couple of minutes to download and install. Now you'll be able to open any compressed (zipped) file type that you want... the world is now your oyster !

Well, I think that about sums it up for me.

I hope this thread has been helpful for anyone who wasn't sure about this sort of stuff and hopefully it's cleared up problems some of you may be having ?

Happy scrapping !



Thanks for all the details, I wasn't aware that rar gave better compression.

I use 7-zip too, but I create zip files for my digital paper downloads and SVG files. Even with zip files I have people who are unable to open them (usually when they use old iPads).

One thing that also helps a lot to reduce file size for PNG images is to use the free optipng program. Or for jpeg, using jpegoptim.

Hi Stephane,

Thanks for the tip on reducing png and jpg files, I'll have to try those out.

If it were up to me, I'd like to compress the files into .7z format which is an even better compression rate than zip or rar files. But from what I understand, the .7z format can only be opened with the 7-Zip program... so I guess that's why the .7z format isn't as commonly used by people.

Rar and zip files seem to be the most commonly used types on the internet that most people are familiar with.

I used to compress everything into rar files specifically because of the smaller file sizes - and because I too was around at the time of the rar popularity! But eventually I switched exclusively to zip because users moved in the other direction.

I found that I was fielding more rar troubleshooting and uploading things twice than I was actually being productive. I figured it was much easier for me to change my habits than to direct everyone to download an extra program - especially if they're not particularly computer savvy or just want the easy option.

But at the same time I'm not too fussed about file sizes because I host everything myself.

I still use rar for my own compressing purposes though and I'm sure a rar file has slipped through while I wasn't paying attention! You can pry ye olden day WinRar from my cold, dead hands.

I'm a long time WinRar user, but .zip seems to be the most popular/well recognized format, so I only upload .zip files. I feel like asking users to download and install extra software just for my products is a good way to waste a ton of time on support questions.

Exactly, Rose. RAR and 7-zip files are much better formats, but Windows and Mac both have the capability of unpacking ZIP files without installing any new software. Add to that that not all computer users are confident enough in their capabilities to find, download, and install a program and learn how to use it, and you've got a recipe for a few hours of tech support questions with every non-ZIP file you release. smiley

Good points, Rose & Holly....however, I think the 7-zip software, mentioned by Brenda, is the best, It's really very simple and very little learning curve (provided one is experienced with working with folders/aka Windows Explorer, on their desktop); it's all I ever use and it has handy features for organizing, for instance, you can look at the contents of the file and pick and choose select files to export (like, with a kit, you could export/un-archive, just the papers or just the elements if you like, or even just one specific file-and-this means you could, if you wanted, export the files to different locations).
And when using it to ZIP, you can easily add additional files to your current ZIP without having to create the whole thing again; very handy for those times when you've forgotten to include your TOU or preview.
Personally, I think the 7-zip software should be part of every digital scrapbooker's tool box. smiley

Don't get me wrong, Rose Thorn. I love 7-zip; it's just that I'm not going to demand that others use it by only releasing my products in .7z format. I zip my stuff up with 7-zip, I just make sure I put them in .ZIP format and not .7z. It's not a difficult program, and it has fantastic features, as you mentioned. But there will always be some who don't want to use it, the same way some dislike downloading from 4shared or Mediafire, and I'm going to give them the respect of not forcing them into it.

I totally agree with you, Holly; and I, too, only use the .ZIP compression, it seems to be the most common usable one. smiley

So, Brenda, I guess "our"/my, suggestion is you also use ZIP compression, rather than RAR (afterall, the example you provided, saved you only 1extra Mb (not really a substantial savings, in my opinion).

I don't have strong feelings about 7-zip over Win-Rar. I've just always used Win-Rar and it serves my needs. It has a lot of the same or similar features. But, like you folks, I want my files to be accessible to people so I only upload in .zip format.

Hi all.
I always use and make ZIP files, but in this thread there was a lot of new info for me. Thanks a lot to all smiley


I've just recently started compressing my files into zip files rather than rar files. The reason is because the WinRar program just recently did an update, and with this new program update, WinRar no longer recognizes older format rar files... which I think was a really dumb thing to do on their part.

I didn't know this when I upgraded the program a few months ago.... only to discover that I could no longer open my older rar files when I went to use it. Needless to say, it angered me to no end.

An important note for anyone who uses the WinRar program: Do not upgrade the program to the newest version!

So because WinRar no longer recognizes its own older format rar files, I'm not going to bother using the program anymore. I'm now using 7-Zip for everything (thankfully 7-Zip will open my old rar files). Thus, all my uploads are now in the .zip format for the past couple of months.

7-Zip seems to be the only program that I've come across (thus far) that will recognize and open any type of compressed file (no matter how old the format is or what program was used to zip it)... so it looks like I'll be sticking with that program from now on.


I have used 7-zip for years and found it one of the best to handle different compressed files. What I also like is that I can select a number of files together and let the program expand the files one after the other. It sure saves me a lot of time.

thank you for the information.

I use 7 zip as well, just so I don't have to worry about the various file types lol.

I got in the habit of compressing into the .zip format just because I learned a lot of online digiscrap stores require the files to be in that format.

Or you could just have this handy little bookmark here which I have used for years,
and which will convert anything I have ever needed!

For extraction purposes, one program I love (that I got some time ago because I kept getting things compressed in .rar format) is ExtractNow. It's a small program designed just to extract archives, and you can just drag and drop them to the window and extract a bunch all in one go. It has a portable version too, which means you can put it on a flash drive and use it wherever you need to without worrying about installing it.

As for compressing, I haven't had to worry too much about size differences (yet), so I've just been using Windows 10's native compression utility for compressing folders.

Thanks for the explanation.