September 29, 2023

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Windows 11 gets native RAR support, here’s how it compares to WinRAR and other apps

Windows 11 gets native RAR support, here’s how it compares to WinRAR and other apps

Microsoft plans to release a major feature update for Windows 11 later this year. Release 23H2 is expected to introduce several quality-of-life improvements and new capabilities, including a redesign of File Explorer. Although there are concerns about performance and bugs, in this article, I want to focus on the positive side and take a closer look at one of the best new features that the redesigned File Explorer will offer: RAR, TAR, the original 7Z, and other file compression formats it supports.

Prior to Windows 11 version 23H2, ZIP was the only natively supported archive format. Therefore, users had to choose third party applications to work with RAR, 7Z, etc. And while there’s no shortage of free and premium file compression applications, native support is always better for the average consumer – you don’t need to search for a program to extract a single arbitrarily downloaded archive.

However, the change raises a question: can the updated file explorer replace WinRAR, 7Zip, NanaZIP, and other applications intended for those who frequently work with archives?

To answer the question, I decided to test the updated File Explorer against winrararguably the most popular app of its kind (honored by the change), and NanaZIP, which is a great fork of 7Zip for Windows 11. I downloaded the massive 24GB Windows 11 virtual machine for free from Microsoft and compiled its files into three previously unsupported formats: RAR, 7Z, and TAR, with a compression rate of up to 50%. Now, it’s time to unpack the archives and measure how long File Explorer, WinRAR, and NanaZIP in Windows 11 take to complete the job.

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Each app ran through three tests to get the average score on my desktop PC using a Ryzen 5 2600 (I’ll be upgrading to 5600 in a few days), 32GB DDR4-3200, NVIDIA RTX 4060, and Samsung 980 500GB SSD. Then, I repeated the process on my laptop with an Intel Core i3-1125G4 processor, 16GB of DDR4-3200 memory, and a 500GB NVMe SSD.

Keep in mind that my goal was to see the performance difference between applications, not to find another reason to upgrade my PC, which I have done anyway since Zen+ architecture is starting to show its age, and I need a better CPU for the future Forza Motorsport launch.

Test… Attention please!

Testing revealed that File Explorer had no problems extracting TAR archives and could keep up with WinRAR and NanaZIP: all three finished in about 80 seconds.

RAR was next, and it immediately disabled File Explorer, getting it to complete the process in nearly six minutes—three times slower than WinRAR and twice as fast as NanaZIP. Oof!

And 7Z made matters worse: File Explorer took nearly nine minutes to extract, while WinRAR and NanaZIP finished in about one minute.

Tests on my Intel laptop showed almost the same result, proving that third-party applications are much better and faster at decompressing files than the upgraded File Explorer.

Is it a problem? Barely, if you rarely need to extract a RAR file or any other previously unsupported file type. However, those who frequently work with archives are unlikely to abandon WinRAR, NanaZIP, 7Zip and other applications. And it’s not just poor performance, File Explorer is significantly less convenient. For example, it doesn’t display the proper status bar (good luck guessing how much time you have left to finish extracting your “homework”), it can’t open a password-protected archive, and ZIP remains the only format supported when you need to pack a bunch of files into an archive. (Not to mention many other features like splitting files, adjusting compression ratio, etc.).

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Although Microsoft could have made archive support a little more convenient, we probably shouldn’t harden it in the current implementation. That would be enough to make Windows 11 better for the average Joe without stopping WinRAR and other companies out of business. In fact, WinRAR, This is good.