How to See File Extensions in Windows

Changing the settings on your computer to see file extensions in Windows is a handy way to help identify file types. Back in the days of Windows XP we almost needed to see file extensions just to recognize what file that was. However now days with Windows 7 and Windows Vista we have pretty icons for each file type. For example if you are looking at a Microsoft word file in your documents folder it would be very obvious because it would have a big W on the icon.

Sometimes file types are not so obvious and you will need to see file extensions in Windows to recognize what file type it is. This is one of the most basic Windows Tips that people often neglect and totally forget about.

How to see file extensions in Windows?

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1.  When you are in Windows Explorer, documents, or any folder on your computer, there will be a menu at the top.  It has the options, file, edit, view, tools, help. If you cannot see this menu in Windows Vista or Windows 7 you need to press the ALT key on the keyboard to show it.

2.  Go to the tools menu, and then choose folder options. See the screen shot below.

3.  The folder options dialogue box will open. Press on the view tab.

4.  Scroll down the list to find where it says “hide extensions for known file types” and un-tick the box next to that.

5.  Now when I go to my documents I can see the file extensions which helped me recognize what file type the files are. See the screen shot below.

Why do we need to see file extensions in Windows?

This tip to see file extensions in Windows can be very handy when you have too generic programs with a similar icon. For example if you have a notepad file and a simple third party text file they can look very similar.

Another reason you need to see file extensions in Windows is to tell the difference between a new version and an old version of a file. For example if you have a Microsoft word document saved in an old format it will have a file extension .doc. If you have a Microsoft word document saved in Word 2007 format it would have a .docx file extension.

I know I have to be careful when sending or sharing a Microsoft word document because some people cannot read the newer versions yet.

Would you like to see more handy computer tips?

I have written many more articles you might be interested in about this subject with step by step instructions and screen shots. For example this article about what are file extensions shows a list of what programs open what file extensions.

My name is Mitz Pantic and I’ve been working with computers for over 25 years and love to teach people how to use their computers. Be sure to visit me at my computer tips website and say hello in the comments section. Also do not forget to signup for my free computer tips newsletter and receive a free 59 page Computer Terms Dictionary!