How to Convert a DAT File to CSV

Dozens of program types use DAT files to store and read data related to their operation. Word processors, internet browsers, video games and audio/visual editing software all use the DAT file type to operate properly. When attempting to diagnose bugs in these programs, it can be helpful to analyze the data stored in files of this type. While you can use basic text editors like Notepad to open DAT files, it can be more effective to examine the data inside through the use of a spreadsheet. If you're collaborating on a project with others or want to examine program data more easily, you can convert files from DAT to the CSV file type used by most spreadsheet programs. You need to keep a few details in mind, however.

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Generic Data and Spreadsheet Files

DAT (or .dat) files are basic data files used by nearly every type of computer software. Unlike .doc files, which contain formatting information for word processors, or .psd files that contain information on layers and project settings that Photoshop can use, the DAT file extension is generic: DAT files contain either plain text or binary code, which most programs can then use to configure themselves, resume activity states, or perform other core functions. Software developers often create a DAT file manually when first building a project to add initial settings or give their projects a place to store user data. Because DAT files use plain text and binary code, often grouped together to begin with, many of them can easily be converted to CSV (or .csv, standing for Comma Separated Values) files. These files segment data into tables through the use of commas, which can be placed into a spreadsheet by files like Excel. This property of DAT files makes troubleshooting code significantly easier, as long as the file can be converted.

Converting DAT to CSV in Excel

Though it is sometimes possible to right click and rename a DAT file with the .csv extension to convert it, this can create formatting problems and lead to additional errors, particularly if you convert the file back into a DAT file using the same method. Instead, you can safely convert DAT files using an office program suite as many of these programs are already designed to open compatible files with columned data. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use Microsoft Excel or an equivalent program. Navigate to the DAT file on your computer and right-click the file. Select "Open with" and in the menu that appears, either select the already existing Excel option or use the "Choose another app" option to select Microsoft Excel. This opens the DAT file in Excel, which proceeds to populate a table with the DAT file's data. You can then select "File," "Save as," and use the drop-down menu to save the file as a CSV. However, this only works on DAT files whose formatting is compatible with spreadsheet programs. If your DAT file doesn't separate data with commas or established cells, you have to use another method.

Using DAT File Converters

If you cannot open a DAT file in a spreadsheet program to convert it, it may be possible to use a DAT file converter to make the file compatible or convert it to a CSV file directly. This depends on the information stored within the DAT file you're trying to work with because some DAT files cannot be converted to the CSV format, based on their contents. DAT file converters found online can scan the DAT file, convert characters to a CSV-compatible equivalent, and repackage it for use. When you've navigated to the converter on a website such as CoolUtils, follow the instructions to upload your DAT file and then use the drop-down menu to select the file type you want to convert to. Click "Start" or "OK" to convert the file. When the process completes, you should be able to open it for further review. Again, however, note that this does not work on every DAT file.

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