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What are Executable Files and their Extensions (explained)

an executable file is nothing more than a file that has characteristics that a computer can interpret without asking third-party programs for it

A computer is more complex than one might imagine. If we studied the history of computers, we would be surprised by everything that has been achieved up to the present day. And one of the many advances is the topic that we bring today is Executable Files and their Extensions.

Even though at the beginning it is a little difficult regarding the vocabulary, we are going to explain it to you in a very pleasant way. So we invite you to stay learning more about this interesting topic.

What are executable files and what are their uses?

In the computer world, an executable file is nothing more than a file that has characteristics that a computer can interpret without asking third-party programs for it. Due to its instructions, depending on its purpose, the team itself recognizes it and executes it thanks to its composition. Executable files can be classified in two ways: portable and non-portable.


In short, an executable file works by itself and there no software is needed to run it. it is usually binary and realized in machine code instructions. A person cannot understand it; makes calls to specific systems, and some more complicated ones have bytecode

Self-executing files

Within the executable files, what are called autorun files can be differentiated, and these types of files contain instructions so that they themselves can carry out their specific work. You don’t need specific software to do your job, but start working on any computer.

You have to be very careful with executable files, because of their nature they can be harmful both for the equipment and for the user of the computer. However, autorun files are more attractive to hackers or cyber criminals, because they can turn it into malware, are easier to spread on computers, and do not require action by other people or specific components.

Difference between an executable file and a non-executable file

The first difference is that an executable file works by itself, it is executed by the computer, and it performs the orientations according to the instructions that it has encoded.

A non-executable file is a file that contains information, it is not executed by the computer but by specific software for it, for example, an image with an editor, audio with a music player, and the task is very specific. An executable file is scripts or compiled, and a non-executable file is spreadsheets and videos.

List of Executable Files with their extensions and programs or dedicated systems to execute them

After knowing what executable files are, and their uses, among other elements of this topic, we are going to present the most well-known or functional extensions, with the following format: The name of the extension, the main characteristics, and the programs or systems that use it. they execute.

Executable Files with .exe extensions

The .exe extension is the executable par excellence and the best known by users. It is used to install desktop programs, is compiled (runs on the platform of your choice), or is assembled. The operating systems or programs that can run it are on Windows, a PC emulator for Mac Os, and on Linux with third-party software or emulator installed.

Executable Files with .scr extensions

The .src extension are nothing more than executable files within the software, dedicated to this. The commands in this type of extension are performed in order by the system, they are seen as plain text but cannot be modified, they are generally used for screen savers, show vector graphics or animations, and since they cannot be overwritten they are used as trojans. Programs that can run files with a .scr extension are creator software and a text editor.

Executable Files with .vb extensions

Files with the .vb extension have information in the Visual Basic language, including information on those works under development, it is provided in ASCII and its components change completely from one to another: classes, logos, among others. On Windows PC it can be run by Dreamweaver, Visual Studio, and WScript programs; on Mac OS only Dreamweaver, plus all text editors.

Executable files with .bat extensions

.bat files are processed in batches, and link program executions. This extension type is plain ASCII text and is developed and edited in multiple text editors. They run on Windows, in a parallel desktop on the Mac OS operating system, and are developed, viewed and edited in different text editors, mentioned above.

Executable Files with .apk extensions

Files with the .apk extension are used to install applications on devices with the Android operating system, and APK is the acronym for Android Application Package. These applications can be obtained both in specific supplier sites and in the Android store, among the main characteristics that they present are that they can be shared between devices and their installation is very easy. They run on Android devices and Android emulator applications and file archivers.

Executable files with .dll extensions

Files with the .dll extension are files that have codes that have the objective of executing the essential programs and applications in the Windows operating system. DLL is the acronym for Dynamic Link Library, these files should not be deleted from the operating system because they can cause future problems. Unlike a .exe file, DLL files are called from other code that is running in order to access the functions of different programs and applications. They run on Windows only.

Executable Files with .ipa extensions

Files with the .ipa extension are applications for Apple devices, say iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It was implemented by the Steve Jobs development team in 2007, and is the basis of Apple applications and is the most common on iOS devices.  They run only on devices that support the iOS operating system.

Executable Files with .cmd extensions

.cmd files are nothing more than batch files, containing a set of commands that are executed in order; their first appearance was on Windows NT, but they can be run on DOS or Windows NT systems, they look like .bat files, but are run by CMD. They run on Windows operating systems, Windows with DOS, and in the case of Mac OS in a virtual machine containing Windows.

Executable Files with .pif extensions

Files with a .pif extension (acronym for Program Information File), are intended to run DOS applications in multitasking environments, defining tasks such as the maximum and minimum memory to use, or the properties of the window, among other functions. There are other types of files that are related to this extension, for example .X3D, .DATA ,.CLB, among others. They are only used in the Windows operating system.

Executable Files with .wsf extensions

Files with a .wsf extension are used to present ActionScript components, digital media, and animated vector graphics, and can even contain. This format was implemented by Macromedia, owned by Adobe. It also incorporates animations with interactivity and functionality and can be played in browsers, if they have flash installed. They are only used in the Windows operating system.

Executable Files with .cgi extensions

Files with the .cgi extension is nothing more than a Common Gateway Interface Script file, text files that are developed in programming languages ​​such as C or Perl can work as executable files under certain conditions. Their main purpose is to perform basic executions on the internet, they are stored on a web server and can be edited before being compiled. They run on Mac OS (Bare Bones Edit, MacroMates TextMate), Windows (Notepad), and on Linux (Rich ER).

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