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What is an .exe file (Executable File) and how to open it

An executable file (EXE file) is a computer file that contains an encoded sequence of instructions that the system can execute directly when the user clicks the file icon.

If you have worked in the world of technology and information technology, you have surely interacted with the Windows or Mac OS operating systems. Surely you have noticed that each operating system uses specific executable files. And one of those executable files are the ones that end with .exe, being one of the most important and main ones. Here in this post we are going to teach you what .exe executable files are and for what purpose they are used so that it is clear to you how they work. In addition, we will provide you with a set of good applications to be able to run these programs, with the aim that you can use them in any terminal that you have available.

What are executable .exe files?

Returning to the topic of what executable files .exe are and for what purpose, the .exe extension comes from the abbreviation of executable. And it is nothing more than a file, which can be executed and its data is saved as the user wishes, allowing it to be relative; the essence of the .exe format is dependent on the operating system on which it is executed. These executables are used by Windows, MS-DOS, OpenVMS and ReactOS operating systems to launch software programs.

The file format was introduced in version 2.0 of the MS-DOS operating system in March 1983 with the name “Executable 2.0”, and it was an option with respect to the previous version that could only execute COM, marking a before and after the how the programs were installed.

Before MS-DOS appeared, to install software, it was necessary to copy file by file in a specific address of the terminal; in a way it was like rewriting the program code all over again. With the emergence of the .exe,  the opportunity arose to place all the files in one single file to execute them and save them in the path that the user wishes.

Running EXE Files (Windows) Double-click an EXE file to run it. EXE files are Windows executable files, and are designed to be run as programs. Double-clicking any EXE file will start it.

Different Types of Executable Files .exe

The emergence of MSDOS was the inspiration for other operating systems, such as Windows, to develop their executables. Currently, there are different types of executables with the .exe extension, which are mentioned below different types of executables exist:

  • DOS or 2.0: it is recognized with the ASCII letters “MZ” or with the hexadecimal code 4D 5A.
  • New 16-bit executable: it is recognized by the ASCII letters “NE” or by the hexadecimal code 4E 45.
  • Mixed 16Bit/32Bit : First Macintosh executable for its OS/2 2.0 system, its hexadecimal form is 4C 45.
  • 32-Bit Portable: This was developed by Windows and appeared in its NT version, it can be portable and run on different computers and is compatible with all versions of Windows.
  • 64-Bit Portable:  similar to the previous one, compatible with 64-Bit versions of Windows.

How to open .exe executable files?

The .exe files today have come a long way and every operating system has its own version. Here’s how to run them on all major mobile, desktop, and laptop operating systems.

Windows personal computers

Performing this operation on Windows personal computers is easy since no specific software is required to run them since this operating system knows how to handle them.

One of the ways to run the .exe files is to right-click on the file and then select the option “run as administrator” and the other way is to double-click, and these forms will install the contents of the .exe files.

There are .exe files that are self-extracting and their content can be automatically extracted to a specific path or to the same folder where the executable is opened.

Mac computers

The .exe files are not made for use on Mac Os and this operating system is not able to recognize it.

If we want to run software on Mac and it is only available with the .exe extension, the first thing to do is check if there is an implemented version to be able to install it on Mac OS. There are many popular programs out there for both Windows and Macs.

If a version of the program is not developed for Mac, another way is to run Windows from mac OS, using emulators or virtual machines, which allow you to simulate a Windows PC and give you the option to install .exe programs.

They can also use interesting and free tools, such as  WineBottler, and there is no need to use emulators or virtual machines.

On Android mobile phones

The .exe executables are only for desktop operating systems and there is no mobile operating system that supports these types of executables.

The analogue for this case are files with a .apk extension, which allow you to install applications on Android. But, there are applications such as  Wine or ExaGear, which allow you to install programs with an .exe extension on your mobile.

On iPhones with iOS

In the iOS operating system, it happens the same as in Android, you cannot run the .exe executables and therefore, you have to use jailbreak to install applications on it without accessing the APP Store. However, you have the opportunity to use emulators like Wine, Wineskin, or Winebottler to install Windows software on iPhone or iPad.

applications and programs to extract executable .exe files

Apart from the wizards that all operating systems have by default, there are multiple options for both desktop and mobile that are really good to be able to extract an .exe executable on any platform.


Wine is an emulator for Android and iOS that allows the user to run and extract an .exe file on their mobile phone without any problems, but the captivating thing about this emulator is that it also allows you to run any software from the Windows or MacOS operating systems. as if you were on a computer.

Exa Gear

It is similar to the previous one, it is a very good emulator that allows you to extract and run any .exe executable on Android and iOS and run the software as if it were on a computer and the best thing about it is that it is free.


Darwine is a .exe executable reader for desktop operating systems. It is a very easy to use installation wizard, you have to download and install it, then right-click on the executable .exe, the user will see the option  “Open with Darwine” .

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