How to Play .bin, .cue, .dat, .daa, and .rar Movie Files

DVD images sliced and compressed must be re-built and burned before use

Before Web 2.0 technologies made peer-to-peer file sharing and online digital lockers popular, much online file-sharing occurred in Usenet newsgroups. Usenet is an open-access bulletin board system based on the foundational protocol NNTP from the early days of the public internet. It has some limitations such as difficulty processing attachments. As such, an entire ecosystem of tools and formats sprung up to divide disc images—like rips of DVDs—into chunks that people reassembled on their computers.

It's comparatively rare these days to find movie files in these older Usenet-optimized formats.

A DVD stuck in an open DVD player tray
George Diebold/Getty Images

RAR Files

The RAR format isn't a video format. It's a type of compression algorithm, much like ZIP files. To access a movie that's archived in a RAR format, you must decompress it first.

You're unlikely to find a RAR file with a movie in it. This format supports chunking, so you're more likely to encounter a series of files with sequentially numbered extensions, for example, R00, R01, R02, and so on.

BIN/CUE Files

The BIN/CUE standard benefits from being easy to implement, although it doesn't support compression or complex error correction.

A CUE file is a plain-text inventory of BIN files. The BINs, in turn, represent sector-by-sector translations of a part of a CD or DVD image. So a movie might be split into several, or a dozen, or several dozen BIN files and the CUE file offers a roadmap for joining them back together.

Several popular apps re-join BIN/CUE files into a version you can use.

DAA Files

Direct Access Archives are sourced from the PowerISO Computing proprietary method of compressing and chunking ISO images. Although the standard isn't well documented, it does implement open-source compression algorithms, so a handful of active software programs can open these files.

An ISO image is a read-only file that represents the contents of a CD or DVD. It's a common standard. Think of it as the digital equivalent of a photograph of the contents of that disc. ISO images are common and you'll find value in learning more about ISO files and what they do.

DAT Files

A jack-of-all-trades file extension, a DAT file can be one of many things. If you're confident that it's a video file, it's likely an entire file and not just a segment, although it's possible that someone subdivided a movie and made each segment a DAT. Software like VCDGear or CyberLink PowerDirector can open DATs.

Playing Video Files

Most of these files aren't movie files at all but rather methods of rendering images of a DVD into a format more amenable to Usenet. In most cases, you'll end up with an ISO image. You can't play ISO images. Instead, burn the ISO to an optical disc or a USB drive. After it's been burned, the disc or USB drive will work with software that reads DVDs.