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Renaming a file is easy, but is it the right thing to do? The answer is yes, but there are guidelines to keep the file easily usable.

If you download a file (say, an update for your video card drivers), and change the name from, say "xxx123.45.exe" to "vidcardupd1", will the program still install/run properly, or does renaming the filename affect the actual program itself?

Changing the filename certainly doesn't change what the file is or does, but doing so it can prevent Windows from knowing what to do with it.

I know I regularly rename downloads.

Let's review some guidelines.

Your example is a good one: renaming an obscure "xxx123.45.exe" to something that's perhaps a little more meaningful like "vidcardupd1" is perfectly safe and will not harm the file in any way.

However, you won't be able to run the file until you rename it again.

The problem is that the name you've chosen no longer has the ".exe" extension. It's that filename extension that tells Windows you have an executable file. Without that extension, if you double-click on the file then Windows won't know what it's supposed to do with it.

You can certainly keep the file with this name but before you can actually use it you'll have to rename it again, adding that ".exe" extension.

"... the filename simply doesn't matter, as long as the extension is set properly."

A more practical approach might be to keep the filename extension from the beginning. For example you might rename "xxx123.45.exe" to "vidcardupd1.exe". Now when you double click on vidcardupd1.exe Windows will know that it's supposed to run it.

But the bottom line is that the filename simply doesn't matter, as long as the extension is set properly.

Now, doesn't that imply that you can rename something to the wrong extension and have it cause problems? Yes, indeed.

For example, if you were to rename "xxx123.45.exe" to "vidcardupd1.jpg" Windows will now think that what you have is a jpeg file - a photograph or other image. When you double click on it Windows will dutifully open up your image viewing or editing program and pass it the filename "vidcardupd1.jpg" to display. Since it's not really a jpeg image, that program will either generate an error or in the worse case, crash as it tries to display what looks to it like garbage.

Article C3174 - October 9, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Carl R. Goodwin
October 12, 2007 6:29 PM

This was MY question (I asked Leo this like 3 months ago). COOL!!! At the time, I neglected to add that I would have kept the ".exe" extension anyway, and just change the actual name to something legible. :)

Albert
October 12, 2007 8:26 PM

if you want to play a rmvb file with windows media center (ehshell.exe). you will have to trick ehshell to read it (this will only work if you run real alternative) if you replace .rmvb with or add .avi to the filename ehshell will play the file.

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