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How to play movies from inside RAR archives without extracting them

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Whether you're a veteran of the BitTorrent Network or a newbie, you're probably already well acquainted with the nuisance that many torrents present by having the video file(s) contained into multi-volume RAR archives instead of the unarchived original file(s).

This introduces a few serious disadvantages for these type of torrents, as far as the user/downloader is concerned, as opposed to torrents which have video content in its original form (e.g. AVI, MPEG etc. files):

  • You have to extract the movie file(s) from the archive before being able to play/preview it;
  • If you want to play the file but also wants to keep seeding it after finishing the download, it will occupy (at least temporarily) a double HDD space;
  • You will have to download the whole contents of the torrent before being able to view any of the included files; this renders the Preview function of BitComet, pretty much useless.
  • As a consequence of the above fact, you won't be able to tell a fake torrent from a genuine one (in case there are no comments for the torrent you're trying to download) until you've downloaded the whole torrent contents. This can be very frustrating when you're dealing with fake torrents, as it is often the case on public index sites.

The reasons why many legitimate torrents come in RAR archives are multiple and in part have to do with the unwritten rules which govern the way new releases are packed and transferred inside the Scene. Consequently, the releases which leak from the Scene into the BitTorrent Network are often compelled to use the same format. Since these reasons are not the subject of this guide, we'll just leave it to that.

Furthermore, if you downloaded a torrent containing archived files, from a private tracker for instance, you may need to keep it in that form on your computer for quite a long time for seeding purposes, in order to reach at least a 1:1 ratio, especially if the size of the torrent is big.

That goes as well for uploads you may have made on Usenet or FTP sites; if one archive proves to have been corrupted during upload, you may be requested lately to upload it again. So, it makes sense to keep the archived form of the files for a while on your computer. This doubles your storage space consumption if you keep both the archived and extracted files.

However, you'll be glad to learn that there is a way around all the issues mentioned above. In order to be able to play video within RAR archives without extracting/unraring the archives first there are a few solutions at hand.

Also, any of the below described solutions can be used for previewing unfinished downloads of multi-volume RAR archives. All you need to do is make sure that the first file of the archive (the one with .rar extension or the one with .part001.rar) and the last one (the file with the .rnn or .partnnn.rar extension, where nn or nnn is the highest number among the archive files) are fully downloaded.

You can achieve that, by setting the highest priority for the above named files, so that BitComet attempts to download them first. (Check this Wiki topic to see how you can do that).

Once these 2 files are fully downloaded you will be able to preview the video content by opening the first file of the archive in your RAR-capable player (the file with the .rar or the .part001.rar extension). Starting with BitComet v.1.23 you can even do that from inside BitComet, just as you would preview any other video file. Read the end of this article for details on how to do that.

Solution 1

You can use VLC Media Player (version 1.0.0 or later) to play movies inside RAR archives. Just use the Media-->Open Files menu and navigate to the folder containing the multi-volume archive. Depending on the archive type you'll have one of two file naming styles applied to your files:

  • if the files of the archive use the RAR 3.0 naming style (i.e. files are ending in something like .part001.rar, .part002.rar... partnnn.rar) you will have to select the file ending in .part001.rar, for opening in VLC;
  • if your archive uses the older file naming system (i.e. the archive files have extensions of the type .r00, .r01... rnn) then you will have to select the file which has the .rar extension (there will be only one file in the whole archive with this extension).

You can also, drag'n'drop the .part001.rar file or the .rar file to the player window, with the same results.

Solution 2

You can use Dziobas Rar Player (which is a player based on Mplayer) to play without extracting first, video inside RAR archives. As opposed to VLC player into this one you can open/drag'n'drop any of the files of a multi-volume RAR archive; it will automatically detect the first file in the archive and load the movie.

You can check its FAQ for more details.

Solution 3

If you have none of the above players installed on your system or don't want to install another player, you can use RARFileSource which installs itself as a DirectShow Filter and will make available the video contents stored in RAR files to virtually any player installed on your system.

After installing it, all you need to do is start your player of choice and open the RAR file. (I haven't used this personally, though, so I can't say with which player it will work or not but theoretically it should work with any of them).

Solution 4

There are also other players which can play video files inside RAR archives. They may be at least as good for you as the above solutions for the purpose at hand but since I haven't tried them all, this is not meant to be an exhaustive guide of every option out there.

However, you can try any of the following players; you should be able to play with them video inside RAR files, as well, without extracting it first:

However, as a corollary, you should note that ANY of the above methods for playing video contained inside single or multi-volume RAR archives, will work only if the archive is of the type: uncompressed RAR.

That is, the maker of the archive had to have used the "Store" method when choosing the compression method. This is a method which doesn't imply any compression algorithms, it just adds a few bytes as a header to the actual file (or file-set) and then splits it in evenly-sized RAR files.

This is actually, the most sensible choice when splitting a movie into RAR volumes, since video files are already compressed files, which use highly particularized video compression algorithms and RAR compression has virtually no effect as far as reducing file size goes.

Therefore, if you find yourself compelled to split a movie into RAR archives (i.e. for uploading it on a private tracker which requires this format or for uploading it on Usenet, for instance) then make sure that you ALWAYS use the "Store" compression method.

However, for playing those RAR archives you just downloaded, this shouldn't be that much of an issue, since the vast majority of the archives you download from the Internet ARE archived using the Store (a.k.a. uncompressed) method.

Nonetheless, you may still encounter, once in a while, archives that for whatever reason (e.g. the maker was a n00b and didn't know about this) were created using an actual compression option; for these ones, the only choice will be the old fashioned way of downloading the whole content and extracting it, before being able to play or preview the video.

But for the rest of them archived downloads, any of the options above may be a much more convenient choice, for playing/previewing the video content inside.

L.E. Starting with BitComet v.1.23 if you're using for preview from inside BitComet a player capable of playing video directly from RAR archives you have the possibility to play/preview RAR files from inside the interface just as with any other standard video files. Just go the the Files tab and right-click on a RAR file then choose "Play file...".

Of course, depending on the player capabilities you will be able to start playing the movie by choosing any of the RAR volumes or by choosing specifically the first volume of the archive, as described above (i.e. the .rar or .part001.rar file).

You can change the current BitComet player in Options-->Advanced-->ui.preview_program_path

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There is one more option, further on which you can use: you can extract the file from the RAR format, then make a new torrent and upload it. This will help your upload ratio a lot, and will earn you gratitude from many others.

Modern audio and video files are already as compressed as they can be, and putting them in RAR files doesn't save any space. The practice of doing this is an outdated holdover from earlier technology and is indefensible now. Even the Scene hasn't got a reason that holds water, for still doing this. They're running on inertia -- they're not ORGANIZED enough to be able to say, "let's stop doing this silly, useless thing". The Scene doesn't post torrents themselves and frowns on the practice, so the original torrent uploader was just too lazy to extract it himself, thus wasting the time of every single subsequent downloader

The only reason to put video or audio inside an archive any more, is to hide spam or malware in it. Any video you download that is RAR'ed should be treated as highly suspect and probably infectious. Examine it carefully before you let it loose on your system.

If it's safe, that's good, but this is yet more of your time wasted by somebody too lazy to take the thing out of its archive before torrenting it. So I oppose giving the original uploader any credit at all. Just take it away from them and upload it they way they should have done it in the first place. If they don't like that, they can quit being so lazy.

So rip it out of there and post it yourself. I and many others will thank you.


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