File extensions - how to show them on your PC

So here's the problem - there are times you need to know what kind of file you're working with, but you can't tell by looking at it. The reason - Microsoft turns off file extensions by default. The assumption here must be that you're either so smart that you already know the file type of every file on your computer, or that you're too, er, inexperienced, to have that information be of any value to you.

Reality is most likely somewhere in between. In any case, you should get used to knowing the file extension of at least some of the files you work with:

File type File extension
Text files .txt
Excel .xls
Word .doc
Access .mdb
Powerpoint .ppt, .pps
Adobe Acrobat .pdf
Various image files .jpg, .gif, .png, .wmf, .bmp, .tif

So here's how you do it. Start by opening My Documents or Windows Explorer (if you don't know how to do that look here first).

Now, on the main menu click on 'Tools', then 'Folder options':

Windows Explorer show file extension 01

From the pop-up form click on the 'View' tab, to see something like this:

Windows Explorer show file extension 02

OK, so here's the deal. Maybe it's just me, but I have a thing about anyone putting something on my computer and then hiding it from me. If it's there I want to be able to see it. You have to keep in mind, though, that you can get it trouble messing with some of these files, which is no doubt Microsoft's reasoning behind hiding them from you.

So here are the changes you should make:

  • Click on the box Display the contents of system folders
  • Click on the box Display the full path in the title bar
  • Click on the button Show hidden files and folders
  • Click on the box Hide extensions of known file types, so that it is not checked
  • And, if you're feeling really daring, click on the box Hide protected operating sytem files (Recommended), so that it is not checked. You'll get a warning message when you do this, asking if you really want to do it. Just select Yes.

You're Folder Options pop-up box should now look like this:

Windows Explorer show file extension 03

OK, only two things left to do. First, click on the 'Apply' button in the lower right corner. Next, click on 'Apply to All Folders' in the upper part of the form. Click on 'Yes' when the confirmation form pops up, the select 'OK' from Folder Options form, which will close the form.

The next time you look in Windows Explorer you'll be able to see the extension of the file you're looking at.