What is an EXE File?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 13 May 2020
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An exe file (pronounced as letters E-X-E) is a computer file that ends with the extension ".exe" otherwise known as an executable file. When one clicks on an exe file, a built-in routine automatically executes code that can set several functions into motion. Exe files are used to install and run programs and routines.

An exe file is just one of several file format types that are recognized by various operating systems. Text files, which are files that do not generate code but simply display text, end in txt. Microsoft Word saves files with the doc extension, short for document. Another common file type is the compressed or zipped file, which uses the zip extension.

The exe file is one of the most useful types of files precisely because it runs programs; however, this also makes it potentially harmful. It can be used as a delivery system for viruses or other malicious routines. Outwardly, the infected exe file might seem quite benign. Clicking on it might appear to launch nothing more than an animated cartoon or simple arcade game. However, unseen code can be running in the background, infecting or compromising the computer.

If one clicks on a malicious exe file, over the next several hours or days the computer might become unstable. Often the user does not relate the problem back to the cause and attributes it to other factors, such as the need to defragment or replace a disk. Personal information or password keystrokes might be handed over to an unknown website without knowledge of the user, or the machine might delete its own files and crash altogether. Any of these scenarios and more can be set in motion by simply clicking on a 'bad' exe file.

Because of the potential harm, when downloading any exe file it's a good idea to scan it with a reputable virus scanner before clicking on it. To this end, security experts recommend setting browsers so that websites cannot load programs automatically. This gives the surfer the chance to monitor which programs get passed to his or her computer.

Exe files are generally not meant to be edited, and changing an exe's file size will render it inoperable. Since the exe file is most often a program, it is routinely protected by copyright laws, per the linked license agreement issued by its author. Hacking an exe file is illegal in this case. The exception is public domain software. Public domain software belongs to the public and can legally be altered by anyone.

As it is safest to err on the side of caution, the best defense is a good offense. Experts recommend keeping virus checkers up to date and deleting email from unknown sources. If you receive an exe file from someone you trust, scan it first before clicking on it. Even files that appear to be coming from reputable sources can be maligned by third parties without the source's knowledge.

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Discuss this Article

Post 57

It's also important to have an antivirus installed on you computer, so that even if you download a bad file you'll have a means to quarantine it and get rid of it before it infects your computer.

Post 56

@anon300850: I'm not a computer expert by any means, but I think you should talk to one and ask about the hard drive wipe option. Basically, you'd save any files you wanted (photos, documents) to an external drive, then you'd completely wipe and re-format your hard drive, then re-install your OS from disc. If your laptop is relatively new, that would be my thought. If it's got some age on it, you probably need to think about getting a new computer.

Post 55

I need to know if it is possible to get my OS back. I see now my whole OS has been hacked for almost 2 and 1/2 years and all my exe files have the exe missing.

I have vb script files, hundreds of binary strings and two extra users in regedit, my http is proxy autoroute, so it seems my OS is actually mirrored. If I try to remove on re-boot, it fails to start and Windows puts it back as it was, I am guessing because of the scripts.

I am locked out of bios by a password, and now I am wondering if it is possible I could regain my original exe. Oh, to top it off

, all security is rendered useless by the optix trojan so there is no point with mbam, etc. All scans inc microsoft show I am safe and fine. Ha. Please could advise if there is anything I could do, or should I simply buy a new laptop?
Post 54

I'm trying to use Google Chrome, or say, Internet Explorer, and it's coming up that it has blocked my group policy. I'm using my laptop in which has Administrator, which is the school tech. How can I unblock this group policy?

Post 51

In my memory card, all folders have been converted to .exe files so that I can't open them. How do I get back to my original format? I need those files because they are very important. Please help me.

Post 50

What is a test.exe file? My desktop was showing test.exe stopped working. Does this cause any problem? How do I correct this error? Please help.

Post 49

what is "pack_win107_196.exe"?

Post 48

I have lost my Internet Explorer on my laptop. When I click on it it says the application is not found. I have tried down loading it again, but it won't let me. What can I do?

Post 47

I don't have executable availability. what do I need to do to get it back?

Post 46

i am unable to transfer images from my nokia 3110c to my pc. It is saying the files are copyright protected. How can I store the images mentioned above on my PC?

Post 44

An exe file is the main executable application file for a program. It is typically the most commonly used by the Windows operating systems.

Post 43

there is an application program which i want to run. so can an exe run an application?

Post 40

I'm trying to open a exe file on my mac that is supposed to turn into a screensaver but the TextEdit program comes up and it's just all symbols and such and i don't know how to set it up so it turns into the screen saver.

anyone know how they work for macs?

Danielle Idunno
Post 37

Help! Recently, I went to a computer shop, I had no problems with the shop before. So I was using my USB, and when I got home, I was going to open one of my folders in it, but I noticed that all the folders have .exe at the end, and now it won't let me open them.

The folders are telling me: "Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file."

I still see them, but I can't open them. Help!

Post 36

where do you download an exe file? i am using vista and need to download a printer driver in an exe file and i do not know where to save it. can anyone help?

Post 35

is it OK to end an exe in 'processes' in the windows vista task manager?

Post 34

Does anyone know where "sORbwV.exe" would come from? Please help.

Post 32

can mac osx run exe files?

Post 31

i changed the exe file extension to open with windows picture viewer accidentally and now i can't find the button that changes it back. Please tell me how to fix this.

Post 29

.exe won't let me turn my pc off. I am not a pc person. help

Post 28

I frequently use the mat-lab software and i write programs using the .exe file. but sometimes how can i run a.exe file without using a mat-lab software?

Post 26

Is nokia e71 compatible with exe?

Post 25

I have an hp laptop with windows vista, and I am trying to open a file named dubai driving.exe. it is not opening in my laptop. please suggest what should i do to open it on my windows vista laptop? Regards. shamsh

Post 24

It is possible that your PC could be infected. The file name STORMSER.EXE is used by both safe and unsafe programs.

You should urgently check your PC to make sure it is not infected. Don't put your confidential data, or your identity at risk. check your PC now.

Post 23

When you run an exe does it tell your hardware what to do or does it tell windows what to do?

Post 22

I trashed an exe file from my pen drive in mac. now i want to restore it but it is not showing in the trash. what do I do?

Post 21

I know this is random and probably stupid, but I downloaded a program that my computer couldn't open so I set uTorrent to open it, and instead of just opening that file, my computer designated all of my other programs as torrent files, so I can't open any files or use any programs. Please help me.

Post 20

hi i found your link interesting to share this knowledge with others.

Post 19

Instructions say, "on your computer, double-click the *.exe file, then follow the instructions to upgrade the firmware."

What, where the heck is the *.exe file?

Post 18

i have got a pdf file which is actually an exe file now i want to convert it back to exe. how can i do that?

Post 17

hello, how to send an exe files by E-mail. with automatic install.

Post 16

H'allright. So, evidently, a mac cannot open an exe file. Is there an alternate program it must be on? Do I have to download a separate program in order to run the exe at all? It's an RPG File, and I'm sure there must be some way to get it to work on a Mac...Help?

Post 15

Is nokia e71 compatible with exe?

Post 14

i downloaded a picture from the internet and i transferred it to my pendrive and it came with an extension file exe. how do i remove this? coz when i delete the extension file i don't want to delete the picture.

Post 13

.exe files only work with the windows operating system, so mac and linux users won't be able to run these files. Hope this helps guys and girls!

Post 12

I downloaded some videos from the net on to my pendrive. Somehow a .exe file also came in .It attaches itself to every folder creating a new folder of 1 MB. I cannot delete it. How do I get rid of it ?

Post 11

i have made a java application and after building it and ruling it the only files i get out of it are




java source file

jcreator workspace file

there is no .EXE so how do i run it out side jcreator?

Post 10

my comp is doing that right now,, what can i do??? =(

Post 9

I have the following excecutable running on my machine and for the first time ever it does not show up on a Google search as being associated with any particular malware. this means that it is probably brand new, and i can't figure out how to kill it....ideas?

Post 7

I am trying to open a .exe file using Word 2004:MAC version 11.5, but am unable to do so. I get a "convert file from" menu, but none of the choices will open it. Any suggestions?

Post 6

hi I want to ask - what is stormser.exe? is appeared out of nowhere! please help. thanks

Post 5

Difference between a script and an executable?

Post 4

Hi ! I have an dos-based exe file for which I have lost the source codes. Is it possible for me to reverse the exe compilation so that I can obtain the programming files and make corrections / additions? Thanks

Post 3

I was sent a demo educational dvd and it is a exe file. i have a apple computer and I cannot open it. Is there software avaiable that will allow me to open this type of file with the apple programs?

Post 2

how do we convert exe to elf?

Post 1

What is difference between a build and .exe?

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