You can easily change file types/formats in Windows 11 by changing the setting to view file extensions in File Explorer.
All files have an extension. A file extension typically indicates what kind of data the file contains, and lets the system know what to do with the file and what programs can open it. There are many kinds of file extensions on the PC for various files, including documents, images, videos, music files, archived files, executables, and many more.
A file extension, also known as File types or File formats, is a suffix at the end of a file name that helps identify the type of file in operating systems. A file type is usually three- or four-letter long and it comes after a full stop (period) in a file name (e.g. .docx, .png, .mp4, .exe).
Sometimes, there may be a file that you need to change from one format to another. When you attempt to open a file that has the wrong extension, the system might use the wrong application to open it, and it might cause an error and stop you from accessing that file. For example, when you try to open a document file with the extension ‘.jpg’ (file type of images), the photo viewer application will surely not be able to open that file for you. So you need to change the file format to the proper format to access the file.
This article describes how to change file types in Windows 11 system.
Can You Change File Type in Windows 11?
The file extension helps the system decide which application on your computer the file is associated with. When you try to open a ‘.mp4’ or ‘.avi’ file, the operating system will open it in the default video player like Windows Media Player or VLC media player. Or when you open a ‘.jpg’ file, it will open in your default photo viewer app.
Although it is possible to change file formats for files, whether or not you can actually change them depends on the files themselves. If a file has a wrong file extension, you can change it, so that it can be opened by the correct program. Sometimes, you can change a file type to a different one in the same category and still have it work – like changing the file type of videos from .mp4 to .avi or .mkv.
However, changing the file type doesn’t always work, because changing the extension doesn’t actually change any of the file’s content. For instance, if you turn an image file (.jpg) into a text document (.txt), it won’t turn your text editor into a photo viewer. But instead, you would random symbols and characters, which is unusable.
So you should only change the file extension only if you’re sure that the file will still work. Let us see how to easily modify a file format using Windows File Explorer.
Show File Extensions in File Explorer on Windows 11
By default, the file extensions are hidden in Windows 11 system. File explorer doesn’t display file format alongside every file. It is to keep you from accidentally changing the file types which might turn them unusable. For instance, if you have an audio file, its name wouldn’t show ‘Rocket Man.mp3’. Instead, it will only show ‘Rocket Man’.
If you intend to change file extensions in Windows 11, first you’ll need to change the options to show the hidden file extensions in the File Explorer of Windows 11. Follow these steps to display file extensions.
First, open Windows File Explorer on your Windows 11 PC by clicking the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar. Alternatively, you can also press the Windows+E shortcut to open it.
Then, click on the ‘View’ drop-down in the File Explorer ribbon, expand the ‘Show’ option, and click ‘File name extensions’.
Now, you will be able to view the file extensions with the file names of each file as shown below.
View File Extensions from Folder Options in File Explorer
You can also view the hidden file extensions by changing the settings in the Folder Options dialog window. Here’s, how:
First, open the File Explorer, click on the ‘three dots’ (ellipsis) menu on the File Explorer ribbon, and select ‘Options’ from the drop-down.
In the Folder Options window, click on the ‘View’ tab.
Next, uncheck the box titled “Hide extensions for known file types” under the ‘Advanced settings:’ section in the dialog box as shown below. Then, click the ‘Apply’ button and click ‘OK’ to close the ‘Folder Options’ window.
The File extensions will be now visible in the File Explorer.
If you try to rename a file type by appending an extension without displaying the file extension first, you’ll just end up renaming the file name itself and the file type would remain the same. So, you will have to use the above steps to view the file extensions first before trying to change them.
Change File Type Through Renaming Using Windows File Explorer
Once the file extensions are visible, you can start changing file types by simply renaming the old file type (extension) with the new file type (extension). You can change the ‘TXT’ text file into the old Word format ‘DOC’, Microsoft Word can still recognize the text in that file and will display it for you. But if you try to change the same ‘TXT’ file to the new Word format ‘DOCX’, it won’t work.
Also, you can change an ‘MP4’ file to ‘MKV’, and still play it on the same media player. But, you can’t change the ‘.MP4’ file to ‘JPG’ and expect it to work. You should be sure that changing the file type will make the file work in the respected program. Also, if you are not sure if the file will work, make an additional copy of the original file for backup before changing the extension. Follow these steps to change the file type:
Open Windows File Explorer and navigate to the file that you want to change the file extension of. Then, right-click on the file and select the ‘Rename (F2) button at the top of the context menu or F2 function key.
Alternatively, you can also select the ‘Show more options’ in the context menu to open the classic context menu.
This will open Windows’s old classic context menu. Here, select the ‘Rename’ option to rename the file
Now, remove the old file extension and replace it with the new file extension, then hit the Enter key or click anywhere in the empty white space to apply the changes.
A Rename pop-up will appear with a warning message that changing the file extension might break the file and make it unusable. If you still want to continue, select ‘Yes’ to confirm.
Now, you have successfully changed your file to a different format. If the file doesn’t work when you try to open it with the corresponding program on your Windows 11 PC, it’s better to rename the file and return it back to the previous extension.
Changing the File Type by Saving It in Another File Format
The above method of renaming a file type in Windows File Explorer might work if the file types are related. Although, it doesn’t change the file’s data, so it will only work in certain situations. Hence, the best way to change file extensions is to save or export them to another format.
You can easily save or export a file into another format as long as the files types are related or from the same category. Some software like MS Word, Paint, or Excel allows you to save or export files to different formats using the ‘Save As’ feature. For example, it’s pretty easy to save a DOCX file to a PDF, an XLSX file to CSV, or a BIN to ISO.
The following steps show you how to save a file in a different format in Word (Example):
First, open the file that you want to save in another format with the corresponding program. Here, we are opening a word document (DOCX) in MS Word. Then, click on the ‘File’ menu on the ribbon.
Most of the editing software (text editing, photo editing, or database editing software) will allow you to save or export a file to another format.
Then, click on the ‘Save As’ option from the left pane.
Next, choose a location for the file to be saved.
In the Save As window, you would have options to change the file type and rename the file name. You can rename the file if you want in the ‘File name:’ field. Then, click the ‘Save As Type’ or ‘Format’ drop-down and choose the file format that you want to save this file as. Here, we’re selecting the ‘PDF’ format.
Then, click the ‘Save’ button to save the file in a different format.
If the format you want to save your file is not supported by the corresponding program, you can try exporting it using different software. If that doesn’t work you can use file converter software or online file type conversion services to convert your files to your desired format.
Changing File Types using Online File Conversion Services or File Converter
There are various free and paid file converter software available online. You can use those software to change files into different formats. For example, you can use Doxillion software to convert the most common documents, spreadsheets, and other files into a number of document formats (TXT, HTML, OTT, PDF, PPT, etc.). Another example, you can use Freemake Video Converter to converts videos and movies to MP4, MP3, AVI, WMV, DVD, etc.
For instance, you can try this multifunctional, multimedia file processing tool Format factory for converting different kinds of files including, documents, photos, audio files, video files, and archives. You can find any kind of file converters by simply searching for them online.
Besides software, there are numerous online services available to convert files from one file type to another file type. Services like Cloud Converter, Zamzar, Online-Convert.com, and FileZigZag help you convert documents, images, audio, and video files with ease. All you have to do is upload your files to one of these websites and click ‘Convert’.
You can easily find a suitable online converter by just searching for them on your search engine or just try ‘Googling’ them. For instance, you can google ‘convert original file type to new file type’ (make sure to replace ‘original file type’ with the old file format and ‘new file type’ with the new file format you want to use) and find various service that suits your needs.