File extension

Updated: 04/12/2021 by Computer Hope
The .txt file extension.

A file extension or file name extension is the ending of a file that helps identify the type of file in operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows. In Microsoft Windows, the file name extension is a period that is often followed by three characters but may also be one, two, or four characters long.

Example of a file extension

For example, the file name "myfile.txt" has a file extension of ".txt," which is a file name extension associated with text files.

File list in explorer with name and file extension

In the example above, the first file shown in Explorer is the "Regedit.exe" file. "Regedit" is the name of the file, and ".exe" is the file extension that identifies this file as an executable file. The next file, "RtlExUpd.dll," is a DLL file, and the last two files are log files. By having file name extensions, you can quickly identify the type of file and have a better idea of how that file may be opened.

Tip

If you are trying to find a file with a specific file extension, use wildcards in your search.

What makes a valid file name extension?

A file name extension is often between one and three characters and is always at the end of the file name, starting with a period. Some programs also support file extensions that are more than three characters. For example, all the latest versions of Microsoft Word support .docx document files and some web pages end with the .html file extension.

Note

In all new versions of Microsoft Windows, by default, the file extensions are hidden, and you must have show file extensions enabled. For more help with enabling this feature, see: How to view a computer file extension.

Can a file extension be longer than three or four characters?

Yes. As long as the program was designed to use longer file extension, it can be longer than four characters. However, to keep the overall file name short, most programs do not exceed four characters.

Is there a limit to how long a file extension can be?

There is no file extension limit as long as the file path, name, and extension combined do not exceed the maximum file name character limit of the operating system. Below is a list of Microsoft Windows versions and their file name character limit.

Windows 10 - 260 character limit.
Windows 8 - 260 character limit.
Windows 7 - 260 character limit.
Windows Vista - 260 character limit.
Windows XP - 255 character limit.
Windows 2000 - 254 character limit.

How many types of file extensions are there?

There are thousands of file extensions associated with one or more applications. Some of the more common file extensions are listed below, separated by the types of files the associated file extensions.

Picture files

  • .bmp
  • .gif
  • .jpg
  • .png

Music and sound files

  • .mp3
  • .wav

Operating system files

  • .dll
  • .exe

Text and word processing documents

  • .doc
  • .docx
  • .rtf
  • .txt

Spreadsheet files

  • .xls
  • .xlsx
  • .xlr
  • .csv

Web Page files

  • .htm
  • .html
Note

For a list of common file extensions, see: What are the most common file types and file extensions? For a full list of file extensions, see: Computer file extensions information and listing.

How to remove a file extension

A file extension can be removed by renaming a file. However, programs rely on the file extensions for identification and removing the file extension could cause the computer to not know what program to use to view the file.

Tip

In Microsoft Windows another option is to hide the file extensions from being shown.

Does a directory have an extension?

No. A directory does not have an extension like a file.

Extension, File, File format, File name, Ftype, Operating system terms, Software terms