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Executable File

Thursday, November 11th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms

Dirk from IL asks:

I heard someone talking about a program’s “executable file”. Does this file kill (execute) the program? Should I be worried about it?

Ahh, save your worries for something good, Dirk, because this is nothing to fret over. The executable is basically the part of the program that “runs” when you click it (or its shortcut). In fact, the executable basically is the program, minus any support files. If you don’t have an executable, you don’t have a program; just a file.

Since these executables are generally buried inside several layers of folders, we have shortcuts that point to them. When you click the shortcut, it tells Windows to activate the executable, and the program runs. It’s a lot like magic, only no top hats or wands and nobody gets sawed in half..

How do you know what the executable is? It normally has the same icon the program does and ends with “.exe” (or “.com” for DOS – nothing to do with web pages, a “.com” is a “command” file). Note that if you don’t have your computer set to show file extensions, you won’t see the .exe part.

Since most programs stick shortcuts on your desktop and in your Start menu, Programs area, you usually don’t need to worry about where your executable is. If you really feel the need to stop by and play with it, you can right-click any program shortcut and select Properties from the resulting menu. Then, click the “Open File Location” button on the screen that pops up to be taken straight to the folder where the executable is hanging out. Once you find it, give it a double click.


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