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What Is an EXE File?

An exe file is a type of computer file. The term comes from the file name extension itself (".exe") which is the abbreviated form of “executable file.”

Exe files are set into action simply by clicking on the file. With that simple action, it launches codes that will install programs, or trigger a sequence of routines. This is different from text files like Microsoft Word (which has a “.doc” extension), graphic files (which have extensions like “.jpeg” or “.tiff”), or compressed files (“.zip”).

There are many legitimate Exe files, though it is necessary to take proper precautions before clicking on one. That’s because an Exe file can be a Trojan horse for viruses or other malicious programs. What may look as a fun arcade game can leak invisible code, copy and export personal information or password keystrokes, or infect the computer system—erasing files, or destabilizing the computer itself.

Most people won’t even realize that this has happened; very few exe files automatically destroy a computer system. Instead, over the next few days or weeks, the computer seems to be slower, or certain files will be deleted. Other exe files act as a timebomb, saving the major damage for a pre-set date in the future.

To protect computers from malicious exe files it is advisable to invest in a good virus scanning software. Then, check the file before opening it. Security experts also suggest changing software/browsing preferences such that the computer does not automatically launch a program. It is also important to update virus software so it can recognize new malicious exe files.

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