What Is the File Extension DAT?

By Cameron Easey

A DAT file extension is a common file type that is used by many types of computer programs. A DAT file is a data file that is created by a software application and can contain text, images and other types of data. A DAT file can be used as a backup for certain types of files and programs that can be restored later.

Application Specific

A DAT file can usually be read and used only by the software program that created it. It is possible to view a DAT file with a text editor or by opening the file in Notepad. Some information may be displayed depending on the data contained in the file. However, a large DAT file that contains binary data for use with a specific program may not have any information about the program that uses it.

Windows Specific

A DAT file can be specific to Windows such as "prefetch" data files and uninstall information. Windows can also use DAT files to catalog information about installed programs as well as for System Restore information. DAT files can also be used for certain kinds of cache data depending on how Windows needs to use the data.

Viruses

Some types of viruses, Trojans and worms can use DAT files to escape detection by an anti-virus or anti-spyware scan. Trojans can also collect DAT files to search for information such as a user name or password. However, keeping an anti-virus or anti-spyware program up to date can prevent this from occurring.

Video Files

The DAT file extension can also be used as the default file type for video compact disc (VCD) files. The data is encoded and stored in a DAT file, which can then be played by a software VCD player. The DAT file will contain the audio and video stream, which is typically encoded in a MPEG file format.

Records

A DAT file can be used to store various types of data. This can include the number of times a program has been used as well as when it was last used. Programs such as anti-virus and anti-spyware can use a DAT file to store information about each scan that was performed by the program.

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