What Is a DMP File?

By Clifton Watson

Numerous files are found on your computer, and not all of them may be known to you. If you see "DMP" files while browsing your computer's files and you are worried they may be part of malicious software or are simply curious as to their purpose, you need not be concerned. These files are part of Window's normal processes.

DMP Files

DMP, or .dmp, files are essentially crash reports called "dump files" that Windows makes when it stops working. Contained inside is information related to your system at the time of the crash so that technicians or tech support individuals can read it and determine what caused the incident. Data like the drivers that were running at the time of the crash, the error message that prompted the crash and other technical information, such as which computing process stopped working, are all part of this file.

Generating DMP Files

These files are generated automatically by Windows whenever it stops working unexpectedly, which commonly shows itself as the "Blue Screen of Death" or "BSOD." This is the standard error screen for a system failure in Windows and presents itself as a blue screen full of white text, notifying you that your system has experienced an error and will restart. It is at this point that Windows generates the .dmp file. The settings for the .dmp files can be found in the "Advanced Settings" portion of the "System" menu within your Control Panel.

File Locations

You can easily find where the .dmp files are on your computer. Click on the "Start" button, and type "*.dmp" in the search field. Click on "See more results" to open a separate window with the locations of all .dmp files in one list. You can right-click on any of the files here, and select "Open file location" to bring you directly to where the .dmp file is located. You can also move or delete the .dmp files directly from the search results window. You can change the default location of the .dmp files in the "Systems" section of the Control Panel.

Viewing DMP Files

You can view the information contained in the .dmp files by using an application called "Debugging Tools for Windows." Download this application from the official Microsoft download page (see Resources). After installation, you can click on "File" and then "Open Crash Dump." Navigate to the .dmp file you wish to open, and double-click on it. The Debugging application will now display the information contained in the file so that you can try to determine the cause of your computer's crash.