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ZIP vs. RAR — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on October 16, 2023
ZIP and RAR are both file formats used for data compression, with ZIP being more universal and RAR generally providing better compression ratios.
ZIP vs. RAR — What's the Difference?

Difference Between ZIP and RAR


Key Differences

ZIP, originally known as "Zipper," is a file format that supports lossless data compression, while RAR, which stands for "Roshal Archive," is also a format for compressed files. Both formats allow users to package and compress files for easier transfer and reduced file size. RAR usually achieves better compression than ZIP, though ZIP is more widely utilized and compatible with various software.
ZIP files can be created and extracted using many programs, while RAR files typically require specific software like WinRAR for creation and extraction. However, many free and open-source software have gained the ability to extract RAR files, although creating RAR files usually requires the proprietary software. ZIP files have broader support across various platforms and operating systems compared to RAR files, which can be somewhat limited in terms of compatibility.
ZIP utilizes a compression algorithm known as DEFLATE, while RAR uses a proprietary algorithm developed by a Russian software engineer, Eugene Roshal. The RAR format is often chosen for its efficient compression algorithm when compared to ZIP, especially when dealing with larger files. Nevertheless, ZIP remains a preferable format for many due to its ubiquity and ease of use.
ZIP and RAR have some differences in terms of features and capabilities. For example, RAR supports better error recovery and can create spanned archives, which ZIP can also do, but with somewhat lesser capabilities in terms of recovery features. While ZIP is considered to be more user-friendly and widely accepted, RAR is often selected for tasks requiring a robust compression and archival utility.

Comparison Chart









Word Type

Can be a noun and a verb
Primarily a file format name

Compare with Definitions


To compress files into a ZIP format.
He zipped the files before emailing them.


A proprietary archive file format.
Download the software to extract the RAR file.


A brief sharp hissing sound.


Energy; vim
I just don't have any zip today.


A zipper.


(Slang) Nothing; nil; zero
He knows zip about the restaurant business.


To move with a sharp hissing sound.


To move or act with a speed that suggests such a sound
The cars zipped by endlessly.


To act or proceed swiftly and energetically
Zipped through her homework.


To become fastened or unfastened by a zipper
The dress zips up the back.


To cause to move with speed and force
Zipped the ball to a teammate.


To fasten or unfasten with a zipper
Zipped up his jacket.


The high-pitched sound of a small object moving rapidly through air.


(informal) Energy; vigor; vim.


A zip fastener.


(slang) Zero; nothing.
I know zip about economics.


A trip on a zipline.


A zip file.


(programming) convolution


(slang) An ounce of marijuana.


(onomatopoeia) Imitative of high-pitched sound of a small object moving rapidly through air.


(transitive) To close with a zip fastener.


To close as if with a zip fastener.
Zip one's lip


To compress (one or more computer files) into a single and often smaller file, especially one in the ZIP format.


To subject to the convolution mapping function.


To move rapidly (in a specified direction or to a specified place) with a high-pitched sound.
The bullet zipped through the air.


To move in haste (in a specified direction or to a specified place).
Zip down to the shops for some milk.


(transitive) To make (something) move quickly


To travel on a zipline.


A hissing or sibilant sound such as that made by a flying bullet.


To make, or move with, such a sound.


A quantity of no importance;
It looked like nothing I had ever seen before
Reduced to nil all the work we had done
We racked up a pathetic goose egg
It was all for naught
I didn't hear zilch about it


A fastener for locking together two toothed edges by means of a sliding tab


Close with a zipper;
Zip up your jacket--it's cold


Move very fast;
The runner zipped past us at breakneck speed


A fastening device on clothes.
She quickly zipped up her jacket.


To move at a swift speed.
The car zipped through the tunnel.


To hit with a sharp hissing sound.
The stone zipped past my head.


To enclose or pack in a special format.
She zipped the documents into a single folder.

Common Curiosities

Can ZIP files be password protected?

Yes, ZIP files can be encrypted and password protected.

Can RAR files be encrypted?

Yes, RAR files can be password protected and encrypted.

What does ZIP stand for?

ZIP does not have a specific acronym meaning, but it implies compression, like a zipper.

What does RAR stand for?

RAR stands for "Roshal Archive," named after its developer, Eugene Roshal.

Is RAR better than ZIP for compression?

Generally, RAR can provide better compression than ZIP.

Is ZIP universally compatible?

Mostly, ZIP is widely recognized and supported across platforms.

Is ZIP lossless compression?

Yes, ZIP offers lossless data compression.

Are RAR files always compressed?

Yes, RAR is a compressed file format.

Can Windows extract ZIP files natively?

Yes, Windows has native support for extracting ZIP files.

Is special software needed for RAR files?

Yes, software like WinRAR is typically used for RAR files.

Is a ZIP file compressed?

Yes, ZIP is a file format that compresses data.

Can RAR files include multiple files?

Yes, RAR can archive and compress multiple files into one.

How can I create a ZIP file?

You can use various software or operating system features to create ZIP files.

Can ZIP files contain viruses?

Yes, like any file, ZIPs can contain malicious software.

Are RAR files common on the web?

Yes, RAR files are commonly used for compressing data online.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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