WinRAR has been around for a very long time. It uses a proprietary compression archive format called RAR and this came about as a good alternative to the ZIP compression format because the files were usually smaller when compressed. This was important in the early days when hard drives were a lot smaller and there were severe email attachment limitations.
These days the size difference of the compressed files doesn’t matter so much but WinRAR continues to be a very popular compression utility. A lot of people still use RAR files and WinRAR will also allow you to compress and extract your files in ZIP format as well. So you are getting the best of both worlds with WinRAR.
People like using WinRAR but it’s a utility that you have to pay for now. It now costs $29 for a single license and if you want a multi-user license then the price depends on the number of users.
As the name suggests, WinRAR is a compression utility tool for Windows-based computers. I’ve been using WinRAR for many years and like it a lot but I was sure that there were other similar compression programs available that would do just as good a job.
So I went searching for WinRAR alternatives and found quite a number of them. I decided that I would test each one and look at the features they offered. The great news is that every one of these compression utilities is free. So here are my 7 preferred WinRAR alternatives.
You have probably heard of 7-Zip because it’s very popular and been around for a very long time. It is one of the very best WinRAR alternatives and the fact it’s open-source makes it completely free. You can use 7-Zip on a Windows, Mac or Linux computer. The compression is really good with 7-Zip and compressed files tend to be around 10% smaller than with WinRAR.
I found it really easy to use 7-Zip. I tried it with RAR and ZIP formats and it was quick at compressing and extracting. I started to compress some of my files using 7-Zip’s own format and found that this is even better than RAR and I was achieving almost 70% compression in most cases.
The extraction process works really well too. It is similar in use to WinRAR in that you can extract in the same folder or create a new folder as part of the process. 7-Zip is a small utility and is only around 1 MB when installed. One thing that was missing from 7-Zip was a feature to repair damaged compressions. But I will forgive that as everything else is just great.
I had never heard of ExtractNow before but after I used it for a while I decided that it had to appear on my WinRAR alternative list. This compression utility tool is only available for Windows computers running Windows 98 or higher. If you just want to unpack files or extract them then ExtractNow is a useful tool.
To make this abundantly clear you cannot actually compress your files in any of the common formats with ExtractNow. You can only extract them. But how often do you need to compress your files these days? It is really easy to use ExtractNow and you just drag and drop the compressed files into the interface.
Not only will Extract now allow you to extract RAR and ZIP files but it can handle other formats too. You can configure ExtractNow to extract all of the files in a specific folder or you can choose your destination folder manually. If you only need an extract tool then ExtractNow is certainly a good option.
I had used PeaZip a long time ago so it was interesting to use the latest version. This is a good compression utility which fully deserves to be on my best WinRAR alternatives list. You can download and use PeaZip on your Windows or Linux computer. It is a fairly small program weighing in at just 10 MB.
PeaZip is a very security conscious utility. You can use 2-factor authentication for your compressed files which most of the free WinRAR alternatives do not offer. You end up with encrypted files that require a password to extract them. PeaZip also features an archive repair facility which I was able to test and it worked well.
There is a password manager built into PeaZip and I found this very useful for password encryption. You need to set up a master password so that you can unlock the PeaZip utility. There are a number of other features with this useful compression application as well and you can choose which of these you want to use by checking or unchecking them.
The B1 Free Archiver is another useful file compression utility and once I started to use it I knew that it would appear on my WinRAR alternative list. B1 Free Archiver is very simple to use and it has support for a lot of compression formats such as RAR, ZIP, 7z, jar, txz and its proprietary B1 format.
I really liked the fact that there is a desktop version of the B1 Free Archiver and an online version too. If your computer hard disk has very little free space then the online version comes in really handy. If you are going to install the B1 Free Archiver then don’t go for an express install because you will end up with unwanted adware on your computer.
The only real complaint I had with the B1 Free Archiver was that the interface wasn’t very good. It’s very basic and a lot of users have complained bitterly about it. It’s still a very usable file compression utility in my opinion and it has a lot of good features and at the end of the day, it’s free.
The Hamster Zip Archiver is another free WinRAR alternative but it does have one big shortcoming. You can extract RAR files using this file compression utility but you can’t compress your files into the RAR format. For me, this wasn’t a big deal at all but it may be for some people.
The Hamster Zip Archiver is a Windows-only utility. You need Windows 7 or higher to use it. It has a simple yet effective interface which I quite liked using. There are not as many options available with file compression as you get with other applications but despite this, the Hamster Zip Archiver does a pretty good job.
You can create new archives in both ZIP and 7z (7-Zip) format which most users will find acceptable. Some users have reported that they have experienced screens that have the Russian language instead of English but this only seems to occur during updates. The Hamster Zip Archiver is a simple and effective file compression tool.6.
jZip is another file compression utility that I’d never come across before. That doesn’t really mean a lot and when I started to use jZip I realized that it was a powerful archiving tool that fully deserved a place in this WinRAR alternative review. jZip was actually built around 7-Zip so it certainly has a good foundation.
There is only a Windows version of jZip available. I liked the simplicity of the interface and it impressed me that this file compression utility could handle RAR, ZIP, GZip, 7z and TAR among others. You can even extract the contents of ISO files using jZip. The version of jZip that I used could only extract from RAR and ISO files and not compress in these formats.
Not being able to create RAR archives was not a problem at all for me. You can use the ZIP or 7z format instead and you will make your files considerably smaller. When you download jZip you do not have to worry about installing any annoying adware on your computer. jZip is a very nice WinRAR alternative.
My final WinRAR alternative is Bandizip. Have you heard of this file compression utility before? I certainly hadn’t. Anyway, Bandizip is pretty useful when it comes to file compression and you can use it on either a Mac or Windows Vista or higher computer. There are 32 bit and 64 bit Windows versions.
I liked the interface with Bandizip and everything made sense to me. If you only want to extract compressed files then you’ll find that Bandizip can handle RAR, ISO, ZIP, TAR and others. You cannot create RAR format archives with Bandizip though. It’s similar to jZip in that you can only create new archives in a small number of different formats.
You need to be the judge of whether this is important or not for you. I enjoyed using Bandizip and found everything pretty intuitive. It had just enough features for what I needed and you can actually test your archives as well. I tested Bandizip to see if it could handle large files for compression and it worked on a file larger than 4GB.
Final Words on the WinRAR Alternatives
It was great to find that there were so many good free WinRAR alternatives around. Most of them have very similar features to WinRAR and other paid file compression tools so it makes sense to go with one of the alternatives I’ve found for you.
Probably the best free WinRAR alternative is 7-Zip. It is so easy to use and will do almost everything that WinRAR does. I’ll give a special mention to PeaZip as well for its excellent security features. With all these free alternatives you can try them all out and then stick with the one that you like the best.