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All files need to be decompressed before they can be used by RCT3. For preparation of ordinary uploads it’s most convenient to use WinZip, the file compressor that comes as default with Windows which packs into .zip format. Because most RCT3 downloads come as .rar files, for RCT3 related downloads it is usually best to use 7-Zip to unpack those.  7-Zip can pack/unpack more than twenty other file types, including .zip files.

File Types

As mentioned, most compressed files will come to us in either of two formats:



ZIP files have been compressed by Windows. RAR files are the same type of file only they have been compressed by WinRAR. Very rarely we may come across a .7z file which is again the same sort of file except it has been zipped by 7-Zip.


7-Zip also allows browsing of compressed directories and selective decompression of what’s inside.  7-Zip will get you around the challenge encountered with WinZip when unpacking .zip files that require a password, or for .zip files that claim to be corrupted and won’t be unzipped by the Windows decompressor.  It is only rarely with 7-Zip that there is a .zip file it won’t unzip properly but you’ll get a message telling you that there’s a problem.

Why Compress?

Why do we compress files?

A compressed file will transfer over the internet faster than a standard file that takes up the same amount of disk space:

Compression groups the files which makes sending a group of related files to another location more convenient. Only one download is required to obtain all related files.

Compression saves disk space. If you have large files and it is important that you keep them but they are seldom used, the files can be compressed for storage and decompressed only when needed.

Download Contents

If you’re going to start using custom items it’s always better to begin with CSO’s because they are the easiest to install. Once you become familiar with that you will better understand the custom installation/file placement process and can then move on to CFR’s, then CTR’s which can be the most challenging to install.  For those of us just getting started with this all those abbreviations can be confusing:

CTR’s are custom tracks

CFR’s are custom flat rides: all custom rides that do not come with a track

CSO’s are custom scenery objects, everything custom that’s not a CTR or CFR.

Where and How to Download

Next you will need to locate a host where downloads can be found. Go to this page for our list of places that offer RCT3 downloads:


Downloads should be directed to a folder that was created or selected by your download manager, or if you don’t have one of those they should be going into a folder of your choice.  This folder should not be in your Program Files folder nor should it open directly from your root drive.  


The general expectation is that items available for download come with brief text files that are usually called ReadMe’s.  It is always a good idea to read the contents of this document to ensure you are putting the extracted downloaded files where they belong.


Many times the assumption is made by the artist creating the set that the person downloading their work is experienced with RCT3 and will know where the files go.  In view of that it is a good idea to take a copy of each webpage relating to the custom content you are about to download.  That way, should the download not come with a ReadMe the webpage copies may give you some indication of how to progress with the files after you have got them.


If at all possible one should have two RCT3 installations which would require two computers.  On one computer, which could be used exclusively for the internet, there should be a system of directories set up into which is extracted custom stuff, and on which there is a fresh RCT3 install with nothing added.  That is the system onto which everything should be downloaded, scanned and extracted.  Then the custom items are trialed in the fresh RCT3 install.  After a successful trial all the extraction directories should be moved over to the other computer where is located your complete, pimped up, fully loaded install of RCT3. The extraction directories should already be named in a way that you know at a glance what files go where when they are moved over. This isn’t a scenario that many could consider in reality but it’s mentioned here to show just how much care and precaution needs to be taken when dealing with huge quantities of files to be installed into an application that’s notorious for being finicky.

Another precaution to consider is to keep the original zipped folders after you have successfully installed your custom items. We should do this for two reasons:

Should the copy we’ve installed become corrupt or if it gets inadvertently deleted, we’ll have a backup copy in the zipped folder.

If we at some point decide to uninstall content from the Cars\TrackedRideCars or Tracks\TrackedRides folders, because CTR folder contents are seldom named in any way that is recognizable, by comparing the contents of the original zipped folder against any files we wish to delete from our RCT3 installation we will be able to see exactly which files to delete.

File Hierarchies and Structure

Whenever decompressing files always ensure that the folder hierarchy is preserved. This is never a problem when unzipping in WinZip.  In 7.Zip be sure if extractions are being made via context menu that the option for “extract here” is used. Always double check the folder hierarchy prior to trialing the custom items in RCT3.  

The primary reason for this check is to be sure the CSO’s are not contained inside too many folders. This is the leading cause that downloaded CS does not work. After extracting your download if you open the extracted folder there will be only one file arrangement that is the correct arrangement:


There will always be two files, one called style.common.ovl and one called style.unique.ovl. Included alongside these files there will be at least one folder but sometimes there will be more than one folder.

Notice there is no B, C, or D.  There is a reason for this. If you don't see arrangement A no other arrangement will do and your CS will not work. To ensure it will work you will have to open one of the folders that are there until you find one with arrangement A inside it. The folder that you find with arrangement A inside is the folder that you place, without renaming it, and without the folders that you found it inside, into your Themed folder. Be sure before installation to remove and put somewhere safe any ReadMe's, image files, links, HTML pages or anything else that does not fit the aforementioned arrangement. If the arrangement you see is not:

one or more folders, plus

a file called style.common.ovl, plus

a file called style.unique.ovl

then it needs to come out of there before you launch the game.

If you have looked thoroughly and can't find any instructions for installation, and if the files contain arrangement A it can be safely assumed the file will go in the Themed folder, which is inside the Style folder inside your program files RCT3 folder.