Change a File Extension in Windows

In this article I will review how to make file extensions visible in MS Windows so that one can change the file type. I’ll also cover how to do this in MS DOS. I’m not going to cover how to globally change the settings in your control panel, but instead how to change the settings while viewing the file with the extension you’d like to change.

Overall the basics have stayed the same in the many iterations of Windows. However each new version of Windows seems to introduce one or two gotchas into the process.

If you find this article interesting, please take a look at related articles I have published.

Windows 8

In Windows 8 Explorer, Microsoft has replaced the menu bar view of your options with their Office-like tab strip. I consider the tab strip a terrible idea although I’m sure others might not agree. Anyhow, without further ado, here’s how to display and change a file’s extension in Windows 8:

  1.  Open Windows Explorer and browse to the folder that holds the file you’d like to change. In the stock version of Windows 8, make sure you are not in the Metro view for tablets, but in the desktop view. The shortcut for flipping between the metro tablet view and the workstation Windows view is to press the Windows keyboard key located at the bottom left of your keyboard.
  2. The simplest way to open Windows Explorer in Windows 8 is to click the small folder image located at the bottom menu bar of Windows. Once you click the icon you’ll be able to browse your hard drive.
  3. So, to continue the steps… once you have browsed to the file that you’d like to view/change the extension of, you will see a View option on the Windows Explorer menu bar.
  4. When you click the View menu bar option you will see the Windows tab strip, including an expandable option called Options on the far right.
  5. Click Options to expand the choices.
  6. Select the choice called Change Folder and Search Options
  7. Now you will be shown a Folder Options popup window.
  8. Click the View tab at the top of the Folder Options popup window.
  9. Take a look at the options in the View tab. You will need to un-check an option labelled Hide Extensions for Known File Types
  10. Now click the Ok or the Apply button on the Folder Options popup window.
  11. You will now see the file extensions of the files in your folder.
  12. You will also now be able to change the file extension when you select a file to rename.

Windows 7

In Windows 7, the primary difference in how one can change the file extension compared with earlier versions of Windows such as Windows XP and Windows 2000 is the Organize menu bar option. This had been previously called Tools in earlier versions of Windows such as XP and Win 2000. Once you have selected the Organize option, then the steps to show and chance file extensions remain the same.

  1. In Windows 7 open Windows Explorer and browse to the folder that has the file with the extension that you’d like to change.
  2. On the top menu bar of Windows Explorer click the Organize option
  3. Under Organize, click the Folder Options choice.
  4. In the Folder Options popup click the View tab.
  5. Under the View tab, un-check the checkbox titled: Hide extensions for known file types
  6. Click OK to save your changes.
  7. Now click to rename your file. You will be able to change the file’s extension.

Windows XP and Windows 2000

Both Windows XP and Windows 2000 share the same steps to make the file type visible and to allow the user to change the file type.

  1. In Windows XP open Windows Explorer and browse to the folder that has the file with the extension that you’d like to change.
  2. On the Top menu bar click Tools.
  3. Under Tools, click Folder Options
  4. In the Folder Options popup window click the View tab
  5. Under the View tab, un-check the checkbox titled: Hide extensions for known file types
  6. Click OK to save your changes.
  7. Now click to rename your file. You will now be able to change the extension.

MS DOS

Changing an extension in MS DOS is very straightforward and unlike the Windows UIs, the way to do so stays exactly the same over the years. Bottom line is that one opens a an MS DOS command prompt, navigates to the folder containing the file to change, and then runs the ren command to rename the file/extension.

  1. Getting to the command prompt will vary depending on the version of Windows. In Windows 7 or XP one can get there from the start menu and entering CMD into the search area.
  2. Once in the MS DOS command prompt one uses the CD command to browse the the correct directory.
  3. Finally, to change the file extension, use the ren command with the following syntax (for changing MyFile.txt to MyFile.docx)
ren MyFile.txt MyFile.docx
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