Windows Tip: How to Show Files Extensions and Know What They Stand For

Tinkering with your computer can be a pretty engaging task. It’s always a good thing to keep your files organized and reduce desktop and directory clutter. However, a lapse in deletion or moving or copying of files can lead to very serious problems. A misplaced system file for example, can easily crash Windows.

Or maybe you’re just wondering what does this particular file do. Well, Windows identifies what common files by having an icon related to an associated program. Like for example, an icon with a W and a document would most often be a Microsoft Word document. And also, by default, Windows (like in XP) hides the common filed types. Like for example DOC files of older Microsot Word files wouldn’t show the DOC extension.

You can actually make Windows show extensions for all files. Here’s how:

  • In My Computer or Windows Explorer, click Tools -> Folder Options
  • In the View tab, uncheck Hide extension for known file types
  • Click OK

Extensions are the 3 characters (sometimes 2 or 1 or 5) that you find in file names after the dot “.”. These characters determine the file type. Like in media files, you have extensions like MP3, OGG, MPG, and AVI. They can immediately tell you which ones are audio and which ones are video. In any case, if you run into some uncommon filetype like DCS (database content source), you should be able to know what they stand for. For that, you might want to consult FILExt. It’s a website that contains a large database of file types and the programs associated to them.

While Windows also takes precaution by hiding system files, it would also be worthwhile to know what a certain file type does. You wouldn’t know. Maybe that’d even be a virus or trojan waiting to explode.