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How to Show File Extension in Windows 10

Open File Explorer from the taskbar. Select the View tab, go to the show/hide panel and activate the checkbox next to File name extensions. 

The filename extension, commonly called file extension, is the set of characters written after the filename so that your computer knows how to open the file. 

When you download an assignment paper, the filename will be whatever name you title the assignment, while the filename extension could be .docx, .doc, or .PDF. Without the extension, your computer cannot decide which application is best suitable to open the file. Is it Microsoft word, PDF reader, or VLC music player?

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What are the 5 file extensions?

There are more than a hundred types of filename extensions. Most of them are alternative versions of the popular ones. For example, .WAV is an audio filename extension that people use instead of .mp3. The 5 popular filename extensions are:

  1. MP3- Opens audio files
  2. JPG- Opens image files
  3. Docx/Doc- Opens word files
  4. XLSX- Opens spreadsheet files
  5. PDF- Opens word files in a Portable Document Format

Why you should show file extensions

Knowing how to show file extensions is an important skill if you’re working with PCs a lot. As a writer, I download documents online and exchange files with colleagues daily. Sometimes I have about five copies of the same document. I cannot know the right one to share without showing the filename extension to my team. 

Imagine you downloaded a PDF that shows Microsoft word’s icon. Or worse, it opens a windows application. You likely downloaded malware disguised as a PDF. 

Assuming you set the PC to show file extensions, you will quickly see that the supposed PDF document was indeed a .exe file (which tells your PC to run/install an application). Installing this application can put your entire PC at risk of a cyberattack.  

How to make windows show file extensions

You will learn four ways to make windows display file extensions on your PC. If you’re using a Mac, read how to show file extensions on macOS.

Activate filename extension in file explorer.

Beyond just copying and pasting files, the file explorer panel also has advanced options to customize your PC. Activating the filename extension is one of them, and it is the easiest way to do it. 

  1. Open your file explorer folder anywhere, e.g., This PC > Document or This PC > Pictures

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       2. Click the view tab

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       3. Click the checkbox next to File name extensions to activate

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That way, you can start seeing the extensions on every document in every folder. If you can’t see the changes instantly, try restarting your PC. 

The settings might vary if you use any of these windows file managers for 2022

Explore filename extension settings in the control panel

  1. Open the control panel and select ease of access

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       2. Click Appearance and personalization

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       3. Go to Show hidden files and folder under the File explorer options

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       4. Uncheck hide extensions for known file types

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       5. Click Apply > OK and check if you can now see filename extensions

The first two methods should enable filename extensions for your PC. But in the rare case that it doesn’t, you can use two advanced methods.

Edit filename extension setting in the Registry Editor

The Windows registry is a database where you can view and edit information, settings, options, and other values for software and hardware installed on your PC. To edit filename extension settings in the registry editor (regedit):

  1. Click Start and search “regedit
  2. Run as administrator

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       3. Use the drop-down arrow to follow this navigation Head to HKEY_CURRENT_USER > SOFTWARE > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > Explorer > Advanced. You also copy and paste the string in the navigation bar. You should have a page similar to this:

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       4. Double-click HideFileExt on the right pane and set value data to 0

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       5. Click ok and restart your computer

Activate file extensions in the Command Prompt

The command prompt is a power control interface where you can input and execute strings of text-based commands. To activate file extensions in the command prompt: 

  1. Open the command prompt interface by searching CMD in the search bar. You can also open a Run dialog with the Windows button + R and search CMD
  2. Type reg add
  3. Copy and paste this command line HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced /v HideFileExt /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f.

This should set your windows to display file extensions.

How can I tell what file type is without an extension?

You can search a file’s property to tell what file type it is without an extension activated. Select the specific file and right-click. Then click properties in the contextual menu. You will see the file type in the General tab of the file properties menu.

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This method changes the file extension, but the file format remains. This means switching this image from .jpg to .jpeg changes the extension, but the file is still an image. If you wish to change from image to PDF or docs, read how to change file extensions without changing the file format.

How do I show file extensions in Windows 11?

The Windows 11 interface differs slightly from Windows 10 when you want to customize settings. When you open the file explorer, the advanced settings option drops down, unlike in windows 10 where they are pinned to the top navigation bar.

To show file extensions in Windows 11, click the view tab and hover your mouse cursor on show. Click File name extensions in the contextual menu to activate it. Uncheck the option to hide file name extensions.

Related: How To Unhide/Show File Extensions In Windows

Frequently Asked Questions

What identifies the type of file?

The filename extension identifies the type of file. It is one of Window’s default settings that helps your computer select the right application to run files. Without the filename extension program, your PC cannot decide whether to open a text document with the text editor, Microsoft Word, a PDF reader, or Photos. 

Where is a file extension found?

A file extension is found at the end of a file’s name. For example, if a file is named my favorite story.pdf. “My favorite story” is the file name, while .pdf  is the filename extension. 

How do I remove .txt extensions?

Right-click on the selected text file, click rename, erase the .txt at the end and click enter. Your PC will warn you that this action will make the file unusable, so be sure you really want to remove .txt extensions before proceeding.

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