How to Install UNRAR on Debian 12, 11 or 10

Unrar is a pivotal tool for handling RAR archive files in archive management. For Debian users, the significance of this utility is undeniable. It is often needed, depending on your requirements, as Debian has two different builds.

Below are the features of Unrar Versions:

  • Open Source Unrar (default on Debian):
    • Transparency: The software’s source code is openly accessible, allowing users to inspect, modify, and tailor it to their needs.
    • Community-Driven: Thriving on active community involvement, this version benefits from continuous development and peer-to-peer support.
    • Broad Compatibility: It supports various operating systems, including UNIX-based systems, macOS, and Windows via Cygwin or WSL.
  • RARLAB’s Free Unrar:
    • User-Centric Design: Designed with users in mind, RARLAB’s version offers a GUI on Windows, making archive management intuitive for those less acquainted with command-line operations.
    • Direct Updates & Support: Managed by RARLAB, this version receives prompt updates and bug fixes. Users also benefit from direct technical support.
    • Focused Availability: Primarily tailored for Windows, its availability is limited for other operating systems.

The decision between the open-source Unrar and RARLAB’s free version hinges on individual needs. The open-source variant might resonate with you if you value transparency, adaptability, and compatibility. Conversely, if a user-friendly interface and direct support are paramount, RARLAB’s version could be the optimal choice.

Update the Debian System Before the UNRAR Installation

Before initiating the Unrar installation, it’s crucial to refresh your Debian operating system to guarantee all pre-existing packages are current. To execute this update, launch a terminal window and input the following command:

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

By running this command, you direct your Debian system to fetch the latest updates for all installed packages.

Select UNRAR Version to Install

Option 1: Install UNRAR (Free RARLab Version)

The upcoming method will authorize the contrib and non-free repositories, enabling the installation of RARLab’s Unrar version. This version is frequently recommended due to its compatibility with the latest RAR archive-extracting formats.

Before proceeding, confirm the presence of the software-properties-common package by executing:

sudo apt install software-properties-common -y

The software-properties-common package facilitates the management of software repositories from the command line.

Subsequently, empower Debian’s contrib and non-free repositories with the command:

sudo apt-add-repository contrib non-free

The above command can vary depending on your Debian version. For more information, check out our guide on enabling contrib free and non-free on Debian.

Following the successful authorization of the repositories, initiate a quick update using:

sudo apt update

Upon completion of the system update, you are now set to install the RARLab’s Unrar version using the command:

sudo apt install unrar

The command above installs the RARLab’s version of Unrar, which is the main subject of this article.

Option 2: Install UNRAR Free (Open Source Version)

Alternatively, if your preference leans towards open-source, non-proprietary software, you can opt to install the unrar-free package. This can be achieved using the following command:

sudo apt install unrar-free

It is essential to note that unrar-free does not support RAR 4 or 5, rendering the Unrar package potentially a more suitable choice. Additionally, bear in mind that the commands for unrar-free might deviate from the standard Unrar command examples shared in this guide.


In this guide, we navigated installing Unrar on a Debian system, a critical utility for managing RAR archives. We highlighted the RARLab’s free version and the open-source alternative, illuminating their distinct attributes and potential advantages depending on your specific needs. Ensuring your Debian system is up-to-date before the installation was emphasized as an integral preparatory step. Ultimately, the choice between the two versions of Unrar will depend on your preferences, whether for a more user-friendly interface, support for specific RAR formats, or dedication to open-source principles.

Joshua James
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