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HomeTech28 years later, Windows finally supports RAR files

28 years later, Windows finally supports RAR files


It’s 1999 and my friends and I are browsing warez sites using Internet Explorer on our 98SE gaming rig. Finally, we push past the scam and porn to find a list of files on an FTP server, labeled “.rar, .r00, .r01, r.02…” But what the hell are these ?

“Oh, it’s segmented. You need to download this program to extend it, it is called WinRAR. Much better than WinZip.”

“Do we have to pay for it?”

“No… but if you’re as cheap as I think you are, it’s going to bother you for a quarter of a century until, in the stark darkness of 2023, Windows 11 finally supports the format natively.”

In hindsight, my friend’s comment was amazingly prescient. How could he know how grim and how dark the future would be? How could he predict that Windows would switch back to sequential numbering, but skip 9? And how did he know that I am so, let’s say frugal, that instead of paying $30, I would spend more than two decades trying to do my job in WinRAR so fast that the popup “Buy WinRAR license please don’t have a chance to show up?

Yes, it took almost three decades before the .rar file was finally supported in Windows without any kind of additional software. Back in the ’90s, it was just one of many competing compression apps (or as they were then called, “applications”), aiming to shrink collections of files so they could be transferred more efficiently over our woefully slow Internet.

How long did it take us to download the Star Trek set of screensavers for After Dark from the dial-up BBS, using the WhiteKnight telnet app, you ask? Overnight stay. After all, it was a shadow over five megabytes. But if it hadn’t been a .sea (self-extracting archive) courtesy of Stuffit, we’d have waited well into the next day.

Yes, compression was a must back then, in my case as a young software pirate, but of course in more legitimate ways, such as software distribution and actual “archive” purposes. I cannot say whether WinRAR was as common among enterprises as among buyers of illegally duplicated games and applications. But the fact that it’s lived a full 30 years since its original development as a DOS program (28 since it arrived on Windows), up to its most recent release – last week, and still almost small enough to fit on a hard drive. of 3.5 inch to fit floppy – suggests it has found its niche.

However, as time went by, the need for apps like WinRAR has diminished as both disk capacity and network bandwidth have increased exponentially. The handful of megabytes that once took me overnight to download and accounted for a significant portion of my hard drive are now the bare minimum to transfer in one go second if you want to call your connection “broadband”. In addition, there are more and more open source standards and options, such as the library project.

At some point someone at Microsoft must have got tired of rushing their .rar operations like I’ve been doing for 20 years and thought there must be a better way. And thus, under the heading “Reduce Toil”, we have a few handy UI updates, then casually and for nothing, this:

In addition…

We’ve added built-in support for additional archive formats including tar, 7-zip, rar, gz and many others using the libarchive open source project. You can now get improved archive functionality performance during compression on Windows.

Of course, the library has long been integrated with other operating systems, and native support for .rar files is old-fashioned for many. But for me personally, this change is groundbreaking.

I’ve still found uses for WinRAR over the years, some legal, some…maybe most not so legal. And it never escaped my mind that I was doubly a pirate during my piracy, because I was decades past the end of my 40-day WinRAR trial. When my enthusiasm was lacking (my APMs have been dropping lately), I would see that nag screen and think, am I really that petty? Will I really continue to abuse this bad shareware all my life? When will I set myself straight again (if I ever did) and make WinRAR an honest app?

Reader, I bought WinRAR.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey/TechCrunch

It seems only fair that I pay the cost of a cup of coffee – as you know, about $31 these days – to support a piece of software that is one of the very, very few to spend most of my computing life with me. to travel with. Few other programs have been such a constant companion, though I’d pay for Winamp if I could.

(Plus, I haven’t updated to Windows 11 and won’t until there’s no other option, so I don’t have the benefit of this particular integration.)

I don’t know what the future holds for WinRAR; I’ve asked the company what it thinks Windows’ official adoption of the format will mean for its software and business and will update if I hear back.

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