An EXE file contains an executable program for Windows. EXE is short for “executable,” and it’s the standard file extension used by Windows programs. For many Windows users, EXE files are synonymous with Windows programs, which is why “.exe” is one of the most recognized file extensions.
Quick summary on slab EXE files
EXE files contain binary computer code that has been compiled from source code. The machine code is saved in such a way that it can be executed directly by the computer’s CPU, thus “executing” the program.
EXE files may also contain resources, such as graphic assets for the graphical user interface, the program icon, and other resources required by the program.
On non-Windows platforms, such as macOS and Linux, EXE files are not used for executables. macOS, for example, uses .APP files to run applications.
However, if you want to run an EXE file on a platform other than Windows, you can use a virtual machine, such as Parallels Desktop or VM VirtualBox, which allows you to run Windows in a non-Windows environment.
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Files for Software Installation
Software installers often have names like setup.exe or install.exe, but application files have unique names, usually related to the name of the software program. For example, when the Firefox web browser is downloaded, the installer is called something like Firefox Setup.exe, but once installed, the program opens with the firefox.exe file located in the program’s installation directory.
Instead, some EXE files may be self-extracting files that extract their contents to a specific folder when opened, such as to quickly unzip a collection of files or to install a portable program.
EXE files usually refer to associated DLL files. EXE files that are compressed use the EX_ file extension.
EXE files can be dangerous
A lot of malware is transported via EXE files, usually in the background of a program that appears to be safe. This infection occurs when a program that is believed to be authentic launches malicious computer code that is executed without the user’s knowledge. The program may, in fact, be real but also contain a virus, or the software may be completely bogus and just have a familiar, non-threatening name.
Therefore, as with other executable file extensions, you should be careful when opening EXE files that you download from the Internet or that you receive via email. EXE files have such destructive potential that most email providers won’t allow them to be sent, and some won’t even allow you to put the file into a ZIP archive and send it. Always make sure you trust the sender of the EXE file before opening it.
Another thing to remember about EXE files: they are only used to launch an application. So if you’ve downloaded what you thought was a video file, for example, but it has an .EXE file extension, you should delete it immediately. The videos that are downloaded from the Internet are usually in the MP4, MKV or AVI file format, but never EXE. The same rule applies to images, documents, and all other types of files: each uses its own set of file extensions.
An important step in mitigating any damage caused by malicious EXE files is to keep your antivirus software running and up to date.
How to open an EXE file
EXE files don’t need a program to open because Windows knows how to handle them. However, EXE files sometimes become unusable due to registry error or virus infection. When this happens, Windows is tricked into using a different program, like Notepad, to open the EXE file, which of course won’t work.
To fix this problem, you need to restore the correct association of the registry with EXE files.
Some EXE files are self-extracting files. These EXE files can be automatically extracted to a specific location or even to the same folder from which the EXE file is opened. Others may ask you where you want to unzip the content.
If you want to open a self-extracting EXE file without dumping its files, use a file decompressor such as 7-Zip, PeaZip, or jZip. If you use 7-Zip, for example, you just have to right-click on the EXE file and choose to open it with that program to see the EXE as an archive.
How to open EXE files on a Mac
The best option when you have a program you want to use on your Mac that is only available as an installer/EXE program is to see if there is a regular Mac version of the program.
Assuming that isn’t available, which is often the case, another popular option is to run Windows itself from your macOS computer, using something called an emulator or virtual machine.
These types of programs emulate (hence their name) a Windows PC -hardware and all- which allows them to have Windows-based EXE programs installed.
Some of the most popular Windows emulators are:
Parallels DesktopVMware FusionBoot Camp from Apple
These and other interesting options are available to emulate Windows on Mac and with it you can run your .EXE file.
The free WineBottler program is another way to tackle this problem of Windows programs on a Mac. With this tool, no emulators or virtual machines are needed.
How to convert an EXE file
EXE files are built with a specific operating system in mind. Decompiling one that is used on Windows would result in many files compatible only with Windows, so converting an EXE file to a format that makes it usable on a different platform like a Mac would be a tedious task.
Instead of looking for an EXE converter, look for another version of the software that is available for the operating system you want to use it on. CCleaner is an example of a program that you can download for Windows as an EXE or on a Mac as a DMG file.
How can I run an EXE file at the command prompt?
You can open Command Prompt from a folder in Windows 10. Open the folder where the EXE file is located > Shift + right click > select Open Powershell window here. Or, open the command prompt by typing cmd in the search bar and enter cd path_name. Once you are in the correct directory, run the file by typing start filename.exe.
Where is the Minecraft EXE file located?
For the Java edition, check the location where you downloaded the game from. If you can’t find it easily, you can also use the AppData folder in Windows. Open the Windows search bar > type %appdata%.minecraft > and press Enter. On macOS, open a Finder window and type ~/Library/Application Support/minecraft.