The suffix that you normally see at the end of a file stored on your computer system is commonly known as file extension or filename extension. File extensions help your Windows OS recognize which file types are related to which applications, so that the appropriate one may be used to run the file.
You may have noticed a three-letter code appearing at the end of a file name stored on your computer. For instance, if you open a photo on your computer, you will see either “.jpg” or “.png” at the end of the file name, or any other similar filename extension that is normally used by your computer’s operating system to categorize the file type.
Similarly, you may also see .doc, .pdf, or .epub at the end of the files in the document directory. These are all file types. However, a file extension doesn’t need to be only three letters. They can be more or less, but are separated from the file name with a “.” period.
This article discusses how you can change a file type, when those methods should or shouldn’t be adopted, and whether you should do it or not.
Table of contents
What is a File Type?
A file type is text inside a file name at its end, separated by a period. These files type what kind of data is inside the file, and helps the computer understand it. More importantly, it helps the operating system understand which programs or apps to use to run/execute the file.
Common File Types
We can talk about scores of file types, but to make this article concise and to the point, we will mention some of the commonly-known file types or file extensions.
- DOC/DOCX: DOC extension is used for files that are produced using Microsoft Word. However, Microsoft changed DOC to DOCX after they released the update of MS Word in 2007. As of now, the Word documents use XML format which is why the “X” is added at the end of the original “DOC”.
- PNG: The abbreviation for PNG is Portable Network Graphics and it is a common image file type that you might have seen in your computer system.
- HTML: The HTML or HyperText Markup language is the basic format of the files that are used to create online web pages.
- EXE: The EXE format is commonly used for setup files that execute several commands on your computer system to install a certain application utility
- XLS/XLSX: This file type is pretty well-known by almost everyone. XLS or XLSX is the file type of MS Excel spreadsheets
Can you Change File Types in Windows?
Yes, you can change file types but it’s not that simple.
A file extension typically helps the system to decide what to do with a file when the user double-clicks on it.
A .mp4 file type will tell the system to open the default video player like VLC or PotPlayer on your computer system to run the file. Whereas, a .docx file type will direct the system to open Microsoft Word on your computer system to view the word file. This goes for all file types and applications.
The question here is whether or not you can change the file types on your Windows pc. Well, this entirely depends on the file itself. When it comes to changing the file type of a particular file, you can not just rely on changing the filename extension at the end of the file name. Amending its extension is probably not expected to work if that particular file is not created correctly.
Changing the filename extension at the end of the file name won’t actually convert the file. For instance, a video file is not a Word document, hence, changing its file type from MP4 to docx won’t turn your video file into a readable document.
Therefore, this method can only be applied if you accidentally saved a file in the wrong format, or want to convert a file format into another while remaining within the same category type. For example, changing a .PNG file into .JPG; the file will remain an image in both cases.
The best method that you can implement to change file extensions is to simply save your desired file in an alternative format using the “Save as” option, or by using an online file conversion service. However, if you are confident that the file will still open after simply renaming its file extension, you can try it out quickly using File Explorer.
How to Change File Type in Windows
If the file you are trying to open has the wrong file extension, Windows might use the wrong program to execute or open it. If the program you are using to open a file does not support opening that sort of file, you might face issues in opening and using that specific file.
For instance, if you have an audio file with the extension .docx (file extension used for Word documents) at the end of it, Microsoft Word will surely not be able to run that file for you.
If you are facing a similar issue as mentioned in the above example, don’t worry. We will guide you step-by-step on how to change file types in Windows OS so that you can run your valuable files without any hassle.
How to View File Extensions in Windows
Before trying to amend the file type, you will have to make sure that the operating system displays the file extension. Follow these steps to do it:
In File Explorer, click on the ellipses (3 dots) in the ribbon menu, and then click Options.
Switch to the View tab.
Uncheck the “Hide extensions for known file types” option.
Click Apply and Ok.
After going through the above process, you will be able to view the file extensions with the file names of each file that you have on your computer system.
Change File Type by Renaming
Once you have the filename extensions of your files visible, you can begin amending the file types by simply replacing the old filename extensions with new filename extensions. For instance, if you replace “example.txt” with “example.doc”, you will be able to turn a simple rich text document into a Word file that Microsoft Word supports.
Since the file you have renamed contains simple text, MS Word should be able to run it.
However, this method does not always work on all file types. Not every software is smart like MS Word and not every software will recognize the contents of the file you have renamed. TXT to DOC is expected to work out, but the method is not expected to work with the DOCX file format.
However, if you still want to do it, here’s how to change file types by renaming them in Windows:
Right-click on the file that you want to change the file extension of and click Rename.
Replace the old file extension with the new one.
When asked for confirmation, click Yes.
Once you are done with the above steps, the file should be assigned to the new file extension that you renamed it with. Try opening it with the corresponding application on your Windows PC and see if you can run it.
If this method does not work, maybe renaming it back to what it was before is a good idea.
Change File Type by Saving it in Another File Format
The above method of renaming the file extension might work in limited circumstances. Hence, it is better to perform the job properly so that we have more chances of running the file on our Windows computer system later on. This can be done by saving or exporting your desired file into another file format.
This method will work pretty well if the file types you are dealing with are related and of the same category. It surely is pretty easy to save a DOCX file in a PDF file and it will work too. However, it is tough when it comes to utterly different file types.
For instance, it is possible to export images from a certain PDF file, but you can not do it by simply changing its filename extension to PNG from PDF. It won’t work that way.
The following is how you can save a file in a different file format:
Open the file to convert in a supported application.
Click “File” and then click “Save As.”
Once a dialog box appears on your computer screen, you will be able to see two important fields that are “Filename” and “Save as type”.
Enter the desired name that you want to set for the file in the “File name” text field.
Select the file format that you want to save this file as from the drop-down menu in front of “Save as type.”
That’s it. The file will now have converted into the format that you wanted, and will now open in the supported program.
If the mentioned earlier (renaming file extensions) does not work, try using this last method to run that file on your Windows PC. In this next method, you will be converting your files from one file type to the other using online file type conversion services available on the internet.
Change File Types using Online Converters
If you are an online geek and love to find solutions online with a single click, this method is for you. You can utilize various online services to convert files from one file type to another file type without any hassle. Most of these services don’t cost you even a penny and do the trick within a few seconds. Plus, the interface of most of the online file-type conversion services is pretty straightforward to use.
Once you upload a file to an online file type conversion service, the file will be sent to the remote server. The remote server will convert this file and then upload it to the cloud from where you can download and use that file in the new file type format. This file will be saved directly to your system and can be opened through a software application that is compatible with that sort of file.
For instance, the file conversion service provider Smallpdf allows you to convert pdf files into various renowned document file types and vice versa. However, you should be careful while uploading your private documents that contain valuable information on such services. It won’t be a good idea to upload censored documents on an unknown server that you don’t have any traces of.
Hence, try to use the above method where you can save a file in another file type using appropriate software that supports both the old and the new file types that you are utilizing.
However, for regular daily files, you can always rely on such online services as these platforms will get the job done within a very short time frame. There are tons of services available out there, hence, it is not viable to recommend any specific service as it might work well for some users and not for other users. Hence, you should start “Googling” regarding your specific case and will surely stumble upon a service that will be suitable for you according to your needs.
Renaming filename extensions is a quick method to convert a file from one file type to the other. However, it is not always viable. Most of the time, the content of the file is lost and can only be recovered by renaming it back to the original filename extension.
However, you can always rely on the other two methods that we have mentioned above – saving in another file format or using an online conversion service. Remember, if privacy is your concern, it might not be a good idea to upload your files on an unknown server on the web.