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    How to open a DAT file in Windows 10

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    Judit Llordés
    @juditllordés

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    Any file used to store data with the .dat extension is considered a DAT file. It can contain many different formats, but most commonly it is just text. However, because there is more than one type of file, there is no shortage of programs that you can use to open a DAT file.


    First, you need to determine if it's video or text to figure out how to open a DAT file. This can be tricky as there is nothing in the file that reveals its format right away. One way to know is to use a code reader that looks complicated at first, but is quite simple. In this article, we'll look at some of the more common tools you can use to open and convert .DAT files differently.



    How to open a DAT file in Windows 10

    What is a DAT file?

    Generic data files with the DAT extension are intended to store important information about the program that created them. Most of the time, they are bundled with DLLs and other configuration files. They are mostly hidden in data directories, but sometimes you can receive one as an email attachment.

    Each type of DAT file is created and managed by different software. The data is then used as a model for various system activities. Since it's hard to know if a DAT file includes images, videos, text, or software configuration files, there's no way to open them. You will have to use a different program each time.


    For text-based DAT files, Windows 10 has a built-in text editor: Notepad ++. Of course, you are not limited to using a pre-installed program. There are many workarounds that you can download to your PC for free or even use online.



    However, most of the devices and programs, including iOS and Android, iTunes, iMovie and Windows Media Player, do not support DAT video files. Instead, you need to use a video player that explicitly supports DAT files if you want to play them smoothly.

    How to open a DAT file using a text editor

    Usually, DAT files are text-based and can be read using a code-editing computer program. Windows Notepad ++ is an obvious solution as it is already installed on your PC. Here's how you can open DAT files using Windows 10 text editor:


    1. Locate the DAT file on your computer.
    2. Highlight the file with the cursor. Right-click to open the drop-down menu.
    3. Click "Open With" to access a list of recommended programs.
    4. Select "Notepad ++" from the options panel.

    If it does not open and instead a new window appears with the word "NUL" written all over it, the DAT file is not text based. You will need to try another program.

    Windows 10 is compatible with a wide variety of third-party text editors that you can download for free. While Notepad ++ is pretty solid, it's not immune to glitches. If you think the DAT file is text-based but it won't open yet, try using one of the following alternatives:

    • Atom
    • US Code
    • Vim
    • Bluefish
    • KomodoEdit

    All of these make for a solid alternative to Notepad ++ when it comes to handling DAT files.



    How to open Winmail.dat files

    Mail servers sometimes automatically translate emails into the DAT format. This is especially true with Microsoft Outlook. If you receive an Outlook message but have not installed it on your PC, you will receive a winmail.dat file attached. You won't be able to open the entire email without using a third party website.


    Winmaildat.com is an online service created as an answer to Outlook configuration problems. You can access it with any browser and use it to open the DAT email attachment. The online tool will show you what the file contains and allow you to convert and download the data. It only takes a few seconds and is quite simple:

    1. Download the email attachment to your local drive.
    2. Open your favorite browser.
    3. Go to the search bar at the top of the screen and type in Winmaildat.com.
    4. Move your cursor over the "Choose File" tab and click on it.
    5. A new window will appear. Browse your PC and locate the DAT file.
    6. Click on the file and then click "Open" to load it.
    7. Press the blue "Start" button. Wait a few seconds for Winmaildat.com to process the file.
    8. When finished, you will see the content of the email on the “Result” page. Click on the file you want to download to your PC.

    How to open DAT file in Excel

    If you are sure that a particular DAT file contains plain text, you can view it in an Excel spreadsheet. For example, if a work email arrived as a DAT file attachment, don't hesitate to open it with the Microsoft Office program. The process is quite similar to uploading other types of files, with one small distinction. Here's what you need to do:


    1. Start Excel. If it's not pinned to the taskbar, you can use the search bar in the lower left corner of the screen.
    2. Open a new workbook and click on the "File" tab in the upper left corner of the screen.
    3. A new window will appear. Select "Open" from the panel on the left side.
    4. Click "Browse" from the list of options. Open the folder with the DAT file.
    5. To view it, click on the tab in the lower right corner of the screen. Select "All Files" from the drop-down list. Click "Open".
    6. A pop-up window will appear. To complete the process, click "Next" when prompted, then click "Finish".

    How to open Video DAT file

    In most cases, video-based DAT files come from video editing software, so you can usually open them with one. For example, if you have CyberLink PowerDirector installed, it's a safe bet that's where the file was created, especially if it's stored in an adjacent directory. However, if you can't figure out where the file came from, you can try your luck with a regular video player.


    As mentioned, Windows 10 doesn't have a built-in video player that supports DAT files. Although Windows Media Player is a reliable playback tool, it is limited to the most common formats. You can download a third party app like VLC Player and use it to play DAT files. Here's how to do it:

    1. Open the browser of your choice and go to this website.
    2. Click the orange “Download” button to get the player.
    3. Once installed, find the DAT file on your PC. Right-click to open a list of recommended actions.
    4. Click "Open With" and then select the VLC player from the list.

    You will be able to open the file, but keep in mind that most DAT files are just computer code. There is little point in opening it with a video player.

    How to convert DATAT files

    If you have a favorite program, you can use a file converter to change the DAT file to a corresponding format. Obviously the steps vary depending on the type.

    There are several online tools you can use to do this. We have already mentioned Winmail.dat which helps you to decrypt broken Outlook messages.

    If you want to edit a video-based DAT file to an MP4 format, it is more convenient to download a desktop program. For Windows 10, one of the most popular solutions is Win FF. It is completely free to download and very intuitive. Here's how to use it:

    1. Using your favorite browser, download the program from this site.
    2. Locate the DAT file on your computer. Right click on it and select "Rename".
    3. Change the extension from .dat to .MP4 or other preferred format.
    4. Click on Win FF to start the program.
    5. In the toolbar at the top, click the "+ Add" button. Find the DAT file and open it.
    6. Click "Convert to" and set it to MP4.
    7. If you wish, you can adjust the quality settings and other features. Hit "Convert" once you are done.

    If the file is used to store configuration data, there is no need to convert it to another format. Also, be aware that sometimes converting a DAT file can make it unusable in the program that created it.

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    DAT is not an easy task

    In most cases, DAT files contain configuration data used by the Windows operating system to perform particular tasks. Other times it's just plain text. Anyway, you can use Notepad ++ to open them. If you don't like the built-in text editor, you can turn to third-party websites and apps.

    When it comes to video-based DAT files, you don't have the option to use a pre-installed program. Instead, download a third-party video player or consider converting the file to a Windows Media Player compatible format.

    Finally, Microsoft Outlook has a particular problem where it converts regular email attachments to DAT files. If this happens, there is a bespoke online solution in the form of the Winmail.dat website.

    Have you ever converted a DAT file? What's your favorite text editor? Comment below and tell us if there is a way to know what kind of information is contained in a particular DAT file.

    Further Reading:

    • Unable to open JPG files on Windows 10 and Windows 11, 6 solutions
    • What is the .AAE file extension? How to open .AAE file?
    • How to prevent Microsoft Edge from opening PDF on Windows 10
    • 12 ways to open the Task Manager in Windows 10
    • How to open EPUB files on Windows
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