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A Simple Guide to Working with RAR Files on Android

written by: Daniel Kolobaric•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/8/2011

Your Android phone can handle many files types, although sometimes special preparation or apps may be required. Read all about how Android deals with RAR, which apps you need and find a step-by-step description on how you can download RAR files on your Android phone.

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    Compressed Files on Your Android Device

    RAR management on Android Many Android users have chosen the mobile operating system because of the wide variety of tasks it can perform. Besides the obvious smartphone functionality, the system can handle a lot more tasks you perhaps didn’t even know about.

    One of the computer-like features on offer is the ability to handle RAR files. For those unfamiliar with the format, RAR is a file container that can hold all kinds of files in one folder-like structure, while compressing them as well. Just like with ZIP files, Android can deal with RAR files as well, which will certainly please many. Here we will discuss everything RAR on Android from how to get it on your phone to what type of apps can handle it.

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    Getting RAR Files on Your Phone

    There are a variety of methods of either downloading or transferring RAR files to your Android powered smartphone. Here are the most conventional methods:

    • Emailing a RAR file to yourself as an attachment is perhaps the oldest and most used initial method of getting files on to your Android phone. Limitations are that the native Gmail other email applications do not always play nice with certain types of attachments, so you would have to check support for RAR in advance.
    • Using Dropbox for Android and desktop to transfer files is easy. Just place the RAR file in the Dropbox folder on your PC or Mac and moments later you can wirelessly access it on your phone!
    • Download the file from your desktop through your USB cable. Make sure to mount the SD card from the phone onto your computer and drag-and-drop the RAR file on to your phone.

    Naturally you can also download the RAR file directly from the Internet through your phone’s browser. All available Android browsers in the Market support file downloads, but not all will let you choose or configure the download location. The default Android browser will not specify a download location, but does have a link to the latest downloads where you can directly access the files.

    All the outlined options will put the RAR file on the SD card of your Android handset. This is only one part of the story and naturally you'll want to be able to interact with the file. Let's have a look at the possibilities on Android.

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    Opening and Extracting RAR Files on Android

    Once the RAR files have made it onto your SD card, you will have to find a way to get to them in order to access what they contain. Android does not support a default file system and therefore third party applications are needed to access anything on the external storage card. The Android Market is filled with these kinds of applications and many of the apps discussed in the article about ZIP files will also work with RAR files. Here are the best options again:

    • Root Explorer is perhaps the most versatile file manager on Android if you have root access. The app can extract and open RAR files, which has only been a recent addition since version 2.16. Nevertheless an excellent option when you need help with your RAR files on your Android device.
    • AndroZip File Manager is an interesting option for both rooted and non-rooted devices. AndroZip can deal with a large variety of compressed file types and RAR is no exception.
    • File Expert is another example of a powerful file manager system that is useful for both unrooted and rooted phones. Rooted devices can benefit from access to system files, not unlike Root Explorer. RAR files can be decompressed here but also accessed as if they were folders.

    The major difference between ZIP and RAR files with regard to Android usage is that Rarlab (the organization behind the RAR file system) prohibits these apps from having RAR-creation features. Your interaction is therefore always limited to either opening or extracting RAR files and you will not be able to create any RAR files. The format is therefore not as Android-friendly as for instance the ZIP or TAR file types.

    If you are the type that needs to work with compression standards between your Android device and computer it might be best to avoid RAR until file managers start supporting the creation of the standard. Nevertheless, if you are comfortable with just accessing pre-made RAR files, your Android device is perfectly capable of handling the task, making the platform yet again a little bit more versatile.

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