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

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

A DVD stuck in an open DVD player tray

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Before Web 2.0 technologies made peer-to-peer file sharing and online digital lockers popular, much online file-sharing occurred the wild, untamed universe of Usenet newsgroups.

Usenet — an open-access bulletin board system based on the foundational protocol NNTP from the early days of the public internet — included some built-in limitations. Among them, difficulty in 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 own computers.

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

RAR Files

The RAR format isn't a video format but rather a type of compression algorithm, much like the more-familiar ZIP files. To access a movie archived into a RAR format, you'll have to decompress it first.

You're unlikely to find "just" a RAR file with a movie in it, by the way. This format supported chunking, so you're more likely to encounter a series of files with sequentially numbered extensions — R00, R01, R02, etc.

BIN/CUE Files

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

In a nutshell, 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 have been split into several, or a dozen, or several dozen BIN files and the CUE file then offered 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 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 still-active software programs can open them.

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. They're common enough that 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 the files we've discussed 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!

You'll have to burn that 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.