How to show file extensions in Windows

December 9, 2009 at 9:38 AM • by John Lueders

The default setting on Windows is to hide file extensions for know file types.  For instance, if you have a Word document ‘My Story.docx’, it will appear as ‘My Story’ without the ‘.docx’ file extension.  Not knowing the file extension leads to more confusion than good, in my opinion.  Let’s all show our file extensions, shall we.

How To Steps

  1. In Windows XP, Vista, 7, open up ‘My Computer’.  Windows Vista looks like the below image, notice that there are five files, three are Word documents, and two are Excel spreadsheets.
  2. Click on ‘Organize’ and then ‘Folder and Search Options’.  (see red circle below)windows-file-refresh
  3. Click ‘View’ and then uncheck the ‘Hide extensions for known file types’ checkbox and click OK.windows-file-refresh-options
  4. After the screen refreshes with your new setting, the screen will look like the below.windows-file-refresh-after

Notice that you now see the file extensions of the five files above.  You can see that the three Word documents have different file types.  One is a ‘.doc’, another is a ‘.docx’, and the last is a ‘.rtf’.  They all open in Word, but they are different.  For instance the ‘.docx’ file is the current file extension of Word 2007 and is sometimes unreadable by older versions of Word, if they computer did not yet install the compatibility pack from Microsoft.  Click here for the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.

Showing file extensions can also help in securing your computer.  Please see this AskAboutTech blog post for more information.

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