First of all, it is important to distinguish between the formats (ZIP and RAR) and the two software (WinZIP and WinRAR). Instinctively, one would think that WinZIP opens ZIP files, while WinRAR opens RAR files. Actually, you will be able to open ZIP files on WinRAR and you will be able to open RAR files on WinZIP.
As for ZIP and RAR, they are two different compression formats, with different algorithms, but more or less the same functions. However, when it comes to performance, RAR would win out. This is in any case what is claimed by its developer.
According to WinRAR, often, the RAR format allows to have a better compression compared to the ZIP. On the other hand, the ZIP has an advantage: generally, one does not need to install software to open the files.
On Windows, you can open a ZIP file on Windows Explorer, without installing specific software. This is not possible for RAR files, you must install decompression software, unless it is a self-extracting file (but using this feature limits compression performance) .
What is the difference between WinZIP and WinRAR?
The comparison between WinZIP and WinRAR, the two software, is more interesting. First, when it comes to software access, WinZIP is paid for. After a trial period, you will no longer be able to use this one without checking out. WinRAR is also theoretically paid. But even after the trial period, the developer lets you continue the software.
That said, the WinZIP software offers more features. For example, regarding the supported formats, here is the list of those of WinZIP:
- ISO and IMG
- TAR GZ
- GZ, TAZ and TGZ
- TZ and Z
- TAR BZ
- LHA and LZH
And here is the list of formats supported by WinRAR:
On its website, WinZIP has also published (source of this article) a very long comparison which lists all the features available on its software and which are not present on that of WinRAR. Among these are: advanced compression for WAV, JPG or MP3 type files, as well as support for archive formats larger than 4 GB.
ZIP vs RAR, WinZIP vs WinRAR: which to choose?
In reality, the choice between compressing your files in ZIP or RAR depends on the person who will receive these files. Indeed, if this person does not have specialized software (like WinZIP or WinRAR) on his PC. This recipient will not need to install any software to open the archive on Windows. Same on Mac.
When it comes to software, it all depends on your needs. It is best to read the list of all the functions available on WinZIP and which are not on WinRAR in order to know which one is right for you.