Windows Finally Supports RAR Files

Windows Finally Supports RAR Files

Traveling back to the year 1999, the era of Internet Explorer and Windows 98SE gaming rigs, my friends and I found ourselves immersed in the world of warez sites. Amidst the treacherous realm of scams and explicit content, we stumbled upon an FTP server, beckoning us with a list of enigmatic files bearing the extensions “.rar, .r00, .r01, .r02…” Intrigued yet perplexed, we questioned the nature of these unfamiliar file formats.

Thankfully, a knowledgeable comrade came to our aid, enlightening us with his wisdom. “Ah, these are segmented files,” he explained. “To unlock their contents, you must employ a program called WinRAR. Trust me, it’s far superior to the ubiquitous WinZip.”

Curiosity piqued, we inquired about the cost of this miraculous software. “No need to fret about payments,” he assured us mischievously. “Although, if you possess the frugality I suspect, prepare to endure a quarter-century of persistent reminders to purchase a WinRAR license, until the year 2023 when Windows 11 finally embraces this format without additional software.”

In hindsight, my friend’s comment proved eerily prophetic. How could he have foreseen the grim and dark future that awaited us? Who could have predicted the peculiar decision of Windows to skip the number 9 in its sequential numbering system? And how did he accurately perceive my thrifty nature, knowing full well that I would procrastinate for over two decades rather than pay the $30, constantly striving to complete my WinRAR tasks with such haste that the dreaded “Please purchase WinRAR license” pop-up would never have a chance to surface?

Yes, it indeed took nearly three decades for .rar files to receive native support in Windows, unencumbered by the need for additional software. In the bygone days of the 1990s, compressing files was essential, whether for my youthful ventures into software piracy or for legitimate purposes such as software distribution and archival endeavors. As a software pirate, I cannot definitively speak about WinRAR’s prevalence in enterprises, but its enduring presence throughout a full 30 years since its original development as a DOS program (and 28 years since its arrival on Windows) and its compact size, nearly fitting on a 3.5″ floppy disk, indicating that it found its niche in the computing landscape.

However, as time progressed, the necessity for applications like WinRAR waned, thanks to the exponential growth of both drive capacities and network bandwidth. The few megabytes that once consumed an entire night’s worth of dial-up BBS downloading, facilitated by telnet app WhiteKnight, now represent the bare minimum for a single second of transfer if one wishes to label their connection as “broadband.” Moreover, the realm of open-source standards and alternatives has flourished, exemplified by the likes of the libarchive project.

Then, at a certain juncture, someone at Microsoft seemingly grew weary of rushing through their .rar operations, much like my frantic efforts for the past two decades, and pondered the existence of a superior approach. Hence, in a blog post, under the intriguing subheading of “Reducing toil,” Microsoft unveiled a series of helpful UI updates, and almost casually, they dropped the following bombshell:

And so, we bid adieu to the nostalgic days of yore, when WinRAR reigned supreme, compressed files held great significance, and the world awaited the advent of native support for this format on the Windows platform.

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