File Extension EXE
File extension EXE is most commonly associated with an executable file which is usually found on the Windows platform. EXE files may also be found on DOS or OS/2 operating systems, or on Windows emulators on Mac or Linux.
The majority of EXE files are linked to applications or installation routines. Desktop icons and Start Menu items in Windows point to EXE files which launch the desired application, whereas setup EXE files will launch an installer for a given piece of software. It is also possible to create self extracting archives using Zip software which also have the EXE file extension. When run, the archive will self-extract, meaning that the client machine does not need unzipping software to open the file. These are often used to distribute files over the Internet as they offer wider compatibility.
It is impossible to tell the contents of an executable file without running it, though the filename and its location will often give an indication as to what it will run. Application EXE files will typically have the same name as the application that they launch, and installation routines are usually called setup or install.
EXE files are executable and run immediately once opened. Though the majority of EXE files are applications, installation routines or self extracting archives, they can also be used to run malicious software containing viruses or spyware. Therefore, EXE files from unknown sources should be avoided or at minimum virus-checked prior to execution minimise the risk of unintentionally running or installing malware.
EXE files can be opened natively on Windows by double clicking the filename. Though EXE files are not natively supported by Mac or UNIX-based operating systems, they can be run using WIndows emulation software such as Parallels Desktop with Windows installed on a Mac, or using Wine or Cedega on Linux.