The RAR Argument

Posted on August 16, 2008. Filed under: Explanations |

Note: An interesting solution to extracted files has recently arisen, which lets you recompress extracted files into their original .RAR files! Read about it here!

This argument is taken from the point of view of BitTorrent P2P users. At the source of the scene, there is little argument, and the scene rules specify the format that the RAR archives should take. However, when it comes to BitTorrent, there is often debate as to whether to use RARs or not. In the end, it’s up to the individual.

Having read the following arguments, please let us know what you prefer in the comments!

+ Archive Compression Ratio
+ Seed Longevity
+ Low Disk Space
+ FAT 32 and old filesystems
+ Disk Fragmentation

+ Portability to other trackers
+ File Selection
+ Seedboxes and FTP
+ Extracting
+ File Hosting Sites
+ Use of PAR files

+ Pre-Times

+ Conclusion
+ Link to this article

Archive Compression RatioArgument favours RARed
This is a very simple argument – RAR archives compress files, and as such save space and bandwdth. The counter argument would be that most files are already compressed, for instance in MP3 format, or using some video codec, so the extent to which the compression occurs is not very large. (You cannot much compress a pre-compressed video or audio file, but you can greatly reduce the size of documents and progams, for instance, by RARing them). Either way, a small compression is still a compression!

Seed LongevityArgument favours unRARed
When a peer completes the download of a RARed high definition movie, for instance, he will be inclined to extract the movie files and watch it. Once extracted, he has two complete versions of the release on his hard drive, and unless he is a very loyal seeder, he will be inclined to delete the one which he cannot immediately use – the RARed one.

Low Disk SpaceArgument favours unRARed
In order to use the files downloaded in RARed format, you must (almost always) extract them. This causes approximately double the disk space to be used (unless you delete the RARed files after use – see “Seed Longevity”). For this reason, downloading unRARed files means more space is needed to use the files. For very large torrents, where the available space does not exceed twice the size of the compressed torrent files, it can be impossible for completed users to extract the files.

FAT 32 and old filesystemsArgument slightly favours RARed (as long as they’re split)
The thing to know about FAT32 is that the maximum file-size limit is 4 GB. For this reason, large files over this size can only be saved on these disks if split, for instance into multiple RAR archives. The thing is, users of this file system would have to extract the large file in order to watch it anyway. Therefore they must have access to a NTFS or similar disk, that does not have this limit – so why not download directly to that disk in the first place? This is only an issue when the NTFS disk in this example is external or network-connected, and not always turned on – then it would not be possible to seed or download for long periods of time.

Disk FragmentationArgument favours splitRARs with windows, otherwise unRARed
With windows operating systems, which use hard disks inefficiently, small files run less risk of becoming defragmented. Thus having split RAR archives prevents fragmentation from the start, and also helps when defragmenting. For unix based systems, this is not an issue, since they repair fragmentation on-the-fly, rather than making it worse with every file transfer.

Portability to other trackersArgument favours RARed
Often peers find themselves wanting to download a file or set of files from one tracker, and either uploading or aiding seeding on another tracker. However, if they download a scene release as unRARed from one tracker, and the other tracker has it in RARed form, then they cannot seed to that tracker without first downloading it as RAR parts. For this reason, users may rather have the split format, since they could always unRAR it themselves, and so have the flexibility to seed wherever they choose.

File SelectionArgument favours unRARed
A useful feature of most BitTorrent clients is the ability to choose which files are downloaded, and which are not. If a selection of files is packed into one or more RAR archives, it is impossible to get the files you’re after until you’ve downloaded the entire torrent.

SeedBoxes and FTPArgument favours RARed
Many uploaders on pivate trackers use Seed Boxes to quickly upload files to many people, and to improve their ratio by using the enhanced upload speed that they provide. However, the files still have to be transferred to the users computer in order to watch the film, or to save it locally. This process is easier when large files are split into many smaller parts, because should a part become corrupted during the transfer process, a user must only re-download that part. Otherwise, they’d have to re-download the entire file should an error occur, or a file be corrupt.

ExtractingArgument favours unRARed
Why should every peer spend time extracting RAR archives, rather than the initial uploader spending that time instead? As soon as two people complete the torrent, the total time wasted is twice that it would have been, had the uploader unRARed. From an efficiency point of view, it seems obvious that the uploader should spend the time. However, we should also consider the value of each person’s time. The uploader’s time is much more important than that of his peers, because he could be spending it uploading more files. If he has to spend time extracting, he might not be able to upload as much.

File-Hosting SitesArgument favours RARed
Uploading on services such as RapidShare, FileFactory and ShareBee requires large files to be split into several smaller RAR parts before being uploaded. For this reason you’re much more likely to be able to find missing parts of a release on the internet, should the torrent die, for instance. There is only a small probability that it’ll help at all, but one thing’s for sure – you cannot easily download very large unRARed releases from these sites.

PARArgument rafours RARed
The use of PAR, or “Parchive” – .par and .par2 files alongside the set or RAR archives allows users to make use of the split RARs even if one had become corrupted, by using the PAR file to create a replacement RAR section. Read all about it at Wikipedia:Parchive.

Pre-TimesArgument favours neither
The fact that the uploader might have to unRAR the files, means that everyone has to wait an extra 5 minutes before being able to download the torrent. However, they do not then have to extract it themselves, which would take them 5 minutes anyway. The question is, would you rather have the files saved faster, but not be able to use them immediately, or would you prefer waiting a few more minutes to have immediately-usable files once they had downloaded? [What is a pretime, anyway?]

The overall argument for using RARs with BitTorrent is probably favoured towards NOT using them. Doing this allows various useful features of the torrent protocol to be used effectively. Namely file-selection and handling of piece-corruption. From a productivity and torrent health point of view however, it makes sense for the uploader to extract the files prior to uploading them. As stated at the beginning of this article, it comes down to personal preference at the end of the day anyway.

Link to this article
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31 Responses to “The RAR Argument”

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Is it just me, or does it take less time to “Force Recheck” files in uTorrent for a download with split RAR archives? Perhaps something to do with the memory it uses? Anyone else found this?

meh- I have a small hdd & use file hosters so rar all teh way 4 me!

thx, i was wondering exacly that

Another problem with RARs on torrents is that they are frequently passworded, and the password often gets lost. Another problem with RARs is that they are sometimes used to hide fake torrent releases.

The bottom line is that RAR makes *no* sense on torrents. The file content should *always* be extracted before uploading.

The point under “Seedboxes and FTP” about redownloading isn’t really valid. You can just recheck the files and hop back on the torrent, and it will only redownload segments that were corrupt, which are very likely smaller than the rar parts would be.

sorry – there is no reason to RAR
compression – all RARs i get have 0% compression

split – unless you are downloading entire DVDs or BRD then not relevant

frag – this is not a serious problem – who worries about this anymore?

portability – this wouldn’t be an issue if no body RARed (which as we can see they shouldn’t)

seedboxes – this wouldn’t be an issue if they used the torrent system to transfer

file hosting – we are talking about torrents so this is irrelevant

pre-time – RARing is two extra steps minimum therefore it can only add time to the end to end process

Seriously, those pro-RAR arguments are fairly week at best. Here’s how I’d score them:

Archive Compression Ratio: .2
This is nearly a moot point. It’s only valid IF the files aren’t compressed to begin with, and most are.

Disk Fragmentation: .1
This a marginal issue these days. Besides, your internet connection is still going to be FAR slower than your hard drive.

FAT 32 and old filesystems: 0
Since they can’t handle large files anyway, you’d be better off using a file system than can, or getting a new computer. I always thought that it was stupid for OEMs to ship XP PCs with FAT32. Just STUPID!

Portability to other trackers: 0
A completely moot point. If there was no other good reason to RAR it, the other trackers shouldn’t have either.

SeedBoxes and FTP: 0
Well, Xjph already nailed that one. FTP really is NOT the best way to deal with large files anyway.

File-Hosting Sites: .01
This is a really fringe case scenario that clearly doesn’t outweigh any of the negatives. Besides, good luck finding those pieces!

PAR: 0
Seriously!? I have yet to see them used outside of worthless binary newsgroups. Besides, if the person that managed to download ALL of those pars actually bothered to verify the RAR archive, then they would have the uncompressed files and would have no other excuse to not seed them instead!

Pre-Times: 1 (in favor of unRARed!)
Again, this is another bogus excuse. Either the person generated the files him/herself, or there were received from a second-hand source. If the files were self-generated, such as a recompressed HDTV recording, then it would actually waste FAR more time to RAR compress or encode them than it would to just seed the files. If the files were second-hand, then just as with pars, the person should have tested the files and would thus already have the uncompressed files anyway.

So you’d rated it about 6.5:4 in favor of using RAR. After judging the merits of your argumens however, I’d give it about a .31:5. Adding Epyx’s comment about passworded RARs, it would be .31:6! Given that, it’s quite clear that RARs should ONLY be used for files that can be compressed, otherwise don’t.

RPGSpree, thanks for reading and sharing your in-depth analysis.

The aim of this article is not to come down on either side in particular, and your scoring system takes into account only your personal experience – I think it’s impossible to put ratings to each factor, because they affect different people by different amounts.

The aim of the article is to help people consider the pros an cons, so they can decide for themselves.

I’ll add your helpful points to the article. :)

It’s fine if you want make a case for both sides of an argument, but your justifications in favor of RARed torrents just weren’t very compelling. Even if I didn’t use fractional scores, it would still come to 3:6, which isn’t stellar. I have had torrents that seriously needed to be compressed though, and would definitely have be able to torrent as many of them otherwise.

How ’bout this? The scene doesn’t much care how bit users like their file format, they don’t even want p2p to get them.

Please without p2p “The Scene” wouldn’t be as cool as they think they are. It’s analogous to car jackers admiring bank robbers. Without the low level criminals, the high level criminals’ status is diminished.

RAR sucks!

Indeed RAR sucks! And all the reason stated above are either silly or outdated.

all (or most) of scene releases nowadays are in parted RARs that are in “store mode”. That means zero-compression. It doesn’t compress the files at all. RARs are pointless on p2p. Within the scene, however, they use high-speed FTP server to distribute their rls. If a file becomes corrupted, they only have to re-download that single rar part.

So what if RAR is better for FTP? They can still unRAR after they FTP, before seeding.

Another argument for unRARed: you cannot preview video or audio while not completely downloaded.

There’s no reason anymore period. Please stop.

But we’re talking about BT here. The only 2 legit pros for RAR are older filesystem compatibility and ftp uploading. Here are my notes on the other “for” arguments
Archive compression – compressing compressed files has no real impact, it’s like header compression on MKV. It also won’t playback for those who use RAR playback (e.g. XBMC). And to top it off, scene rules dictate the use of “storage” archiving, which means compressed archives are nuked.
Disk fragmentation – this is not 1998, and fragmentation of a video file is not making any impact. We mostly worry about OS drive
Portability – Self fulfilling prophecy
File hosting – The connection they’re making to BT doesn’t work, it seems like there is a complete lack of understanding how BT works. Poorly seeded torrents don’t just give you one RAR so that you can http the other, therefore all parts will be incomplete…
PAR – Again, this is BT, file checking is a built in component. Force re-check takes care of this if there is any suspicion.

RARs make sense for Usenet (many smaller and optimally sized parts), HTTP hosting (few larger sized parts), and that’s it. FTPing to seedbox is a one time process, so that’s not really selling it to me either. BT by it’s nature handles these files in parts, there’s no strong case for doing parts of parts.

Fuck you .. without the scene you would have nothing ungrateful bitch loser.

When downloading a RAR-ed file from some tracker, I never seed it. I unrar it, keep it on my drive and NEVER EVER share it to anyone, because I see no point in keeping a double copy on my HD. Multiple RARs are total pain in the ass. I have just downloaded a set of plugins RAR-ed 3 times (rar within a rar, within a rar). Fuck scene releases!

I am for sure in the minority here, but I love rar files because I have a seedbox. When the file finishes downloading and I want to save it to my pc, it helps that the file is in many parts. I don’t know why, but then I download many files all at once, it goes much faster. I have an 8 mbps connection and I can max it out with downloading multiple files, but if I have to download one huge file (which can be the case with some bluerays), I am lucky if I download at 4 mbps. That’s megabit as in appr 4-500 kilobytes a sec. Also like was in the post, it something would happen while downloading, I have to start over. Right now I have been downloading a blueray for about 8 hrs. If I were to lose my connection right now, I would be pissed. On the other had, if it had rars, it would have finished a long time ago.

How can you make 001, 002 etc named archives with sfv like scene groups?

You can create the .001, .002,… named RAR files with WinRAR. Create your split archives the regular way, but before clicking OK, you have to check “Old style volume names” on the Advanced tab and rename the default archive name of “archive.rar” to “archive.001” on the General tab. This way you get the same result as some scene groups.

To create an SFV file, you just use one of all the existing SFV tools.

Thank you but I asked now because of the new RAR5 archives that don’t have the old style volume names enabled anymore and this method doesn’t work anymore. I couldn’t find a workaround with this new format but i know it’s possible since i saw a release containing 001,002 etc files and a warning in the nfo that they are using the new rar5 format.
For now I can use an utility to rename the part0x.rar files to .00x but it’s not very convenient.

I still see the option “Old style volume names” in the WinRAR 5 GUI, but I’m not able to check it.

8. Features removed:

c) old style extension based arcname.rNN volume names are not
supported by RAR 5.0 archives, which use only arcname.partN.rar
volume names;

It isn’t available anymore for RAR5 archives, but it should still work for RAR4 archives. It could be a bug. (because the GUI option is still there)

Which release was it? They probably used an external utility.

The “Old style volume names” option can still be used for RAR4 archives, but you have to enter the size for the split volumes first before you can enable the option. Not a bug, works as expected.

The “Old style…” is disabled specifically for RAR5, it’s not a bug.
The release name is TuneUp.Utilities.2014.v14.0.1000.169.READ.NFO-TE and inside the nfo says
“As of 09/14/2013 ALL TE RAR archives will now be using the RAR5
standard. Please make sure to update to the latest version of
Winrar (at least Winrar v5.0) so you can extract the contents of
the *.001, *.002 etc… archives within the zip files. The
update is free, there is no reason not to update”

What is important is to know where you P2P leechers stand in the big scheme of things. What you dont realize is how far down the rung you are in the leech pool. WIthout the scene you leeches wouldnt even be getting your grubby little hands on these files. There is a comment below that says “the scene needs the leeches”. That is not true, that is lamer logic you say to yourself as you download these files and sob over your lack of skills. RARs are important for many reasons. Above all, a 0d release can be distributed much quicker to the sites using compression. They meet the requirements for various distribution mechanisms (not just retard torrentville) such as FTP sites, usenet, XDCC transfers over irc, etc. Breaking them up to managable files means faster recovery when crap goes wrong. Also, something you lamer leechers dont understand the concept of, is by keeping the original RARs you can actually contribute more effectively. If someone’s network connection dropped for 10 minutes, you can just send them the rar file they need (small) versus a 24GB bluray rip. If a siteadmin’s fsck wipes out a file, you can fxp just the small file from another site. The parity files and sfv’s also complement RAR files. The quality and integrity speak for themselves and that is why scene releases are so valued, partly because of these practices. So sorry if you lamers are ‘inconvienced’ that you have to get off your ass and extract a rar file. You should be grateful you even have exposure to this world. Because if it wasnt for the scene, you would be fighting each other over 6 month old releases laced with other lamer malware and adware. File archiving has existing in the scene literally since the 80s when groups like THG, TRSI and RAZOR was zipping up 48x 1.44MB floppy disks for BBS transfers over X/Y/Z-Modem. While file integrity has gotten much better than those days, there is still a need to efficiently manage large volumes of data over a large volume of links, and RARs meet that need globally.

We all like everything handed to us and i am the first to use automation and appreciate a nice fresh movie dumped in a folder for my smartTV to browse too. But dont lose sight of the mechanics happening at the layers above your nice web portal or torrent tracker. The ‘scene’ are worker bees; they dont just throw a piece of shit in the air, they package, courier it and manage the shit – it takes alot.

RAR parts for torrents does not make much sense (no doubt it is useful for scene purposes), in my opinion if you publish release on torrents, extract it and provide srr file with it! So “original distribution” can be reconstructed in case of a need.

“Here’s a great essay explaining why people shouldn’t put RAR archives in torrents. They are useless and they make “selective downloading” impossible.”

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