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Opening old files

Thursday, November 11th, 2004 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management, MS Office Help

I have old disks laying around with important stuff on them but the software that created them is no longer around. Am I out of luck?

In many cases, the info on the disk(s) seems like it’s inaccessible with newer machines. Maybe the software that created it is no longer in existence, or it’s just an odd ball format.

So, is there any way to transfer your files from old floppies to your new machine?

Well, maybe.

The first thing I try with an old, unknown file format is to open it with Notepad (assuming it’s a document and not a picture or something). You’d be surprised how often that little trick works.

If that doesn’t work, sometimes MS Word or Corel WordPerfect may have the ability to open the file.

Note that with both of the above document opening tricks, you’ll need to select ” All files ” from the File of type drop box on the Open screen. If you don’t, you probably won’t be able to access the file you’re trying to open at all.


If the file is a database, this can be harder. Your best bet, believe it or not, may be a spreadsheet program like Excel (or some similar program).

You see, most older (and many newer) databases are in a basic text separated format (the values between fields are separated by commas, spaces or tabs with one record per line). Excel and most other spreadsheet programs can handle these types of files with ease. Again, you’ll need to select ” All files ” from the Open screen’s Files of type drop box in order to try this.

Of course, if you have a good database program, it may be able to open the file for you. MS Access can open just about any database file, if you’re lucky enough to have access to Access.

Note that if you are successful in getting your file to open, you will probably have to “clean” it up a bit before it’s useful again (sometimes the formatting is not quite what it should be). Once it’s set though, be sure to re-save it in a current format :-)

Finally, if all else fails, you may need to figure out exactly what type of program you’ll need to find in order to open the file. Check out this site for a little help in that dept:

~ Steve

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