How to Change a File Type in Windows 11

edited April 16 in PC Tech

Want to upload a Word document, and the application form will only accept PDFs? Have a photo that's too big to upload? Understanding how to change file types can help you overcome these difficulties. We'll show you how to change the file type on Windows 11. 

What is a file extension?

Windows files typically have two parts to their name – the actual file name and a dot before a few characters.

For example, you might have a document called FileTypes.docx or an image called FileType.bmp. 

The part after the dot is the file extension, and it tells the operating system to associate the file with a specific program or application that can open or manipulate what type of file.

To see a range of extensions and their usage, check out this list provided by Microsoft Support.

Why would you want to change the file type? 

Changing the extension won't convert the file to another format or make it different, so you might wonder why. It can be helpful or necessary in these scenarios: 

  • File Compatibility: Can't open a .docx in an older Word version? Switch it to .doc. Changing the file extension can break down compatibility barriers between files and software. 
  • Program Behavior: Some software treats files differently based on their extension. These editors feature syntax highlighting based on the file type. Changing the file extension can make your program behave a certain way. 
  • File Organization: Want to find files fast? Use specific extensions. Tag text files as .docx, images as .jpg, and documents as .pdf. It makes locating what you need a breeze. 
  • Compression: Looking to reduce file size? Converting formats, like .png to .jpg, can help. Smaller sizes are perfect for web use or emailing. 
  • Conversion Needs: Your company may require a specific file type; converting files allows you to use that application more effectively. 
  • Security Reasons: Switching extensions adds an extra layer of security. It's a way to keep unauthorized users from quickly opening specific files. 
  • Automated Processing: Automated systems might require specific extensions to work correctly. Change them as needed.

How to display file extension in Windows 11:

By default Windows doesn't show file extensions. Here are the steps to enable them:

  1. Open File Explorer (Windows Key + E) 
  2. Go to View > Options. Click the View tab. Uncheck Hide Extensions for known file types. Hit Apply > OK.

Now that you've made file extensions visible, you can rename them.

File extension modifications: Proceed with caution 

  • Backup First: Changing a file extension can corrupt files. Always make a backup first. 
  • A Simple Rename Isn't Enough: Changing the extension won't actually convert the file. For instance, a .txt won't magically turn into a genuine .pdf. can lead to unreadable files or weird program behavior. You'll need specialized software or online services for real conversion.

1. How to change a file type using File Explorer (by renaming it)

Using the Rename option to change the file extension can be a quick way to attempt to open a file in another program. Still, there's no assurance it'll work because simply renaming the extension doesn't alter the file's actual content.

How to change a file: 

  1. Find the file you want to change. 
  2. Right-click the file, and choose Rename
  3. Delete the old extension, type the new one after the dot, and press Enter. 
  4. Confirm change when prompted. Choose Yes if sure. 
  5. Once done, open the file to ensure it works.

2. Changing file type with Save As 

The Save As method inside an app is a wiser choice because it converts the file, not just renames it. This way, you can trust it'll work in the app you plan to use.

For example, converting a doc to pdf ensures it looks the same on any device. Plus, you can shrink a big image format to a smaller one.

  1. Open the file you want to convert using the appropriate app. 
  2. Click the File tab. 
  3. Choose Save As or Export As from the drop-down menu. 
  4. Choose the location where you want to save the new file. 
  5. Click the drop-down arrow next to Save as type, and pick your new file extension. 
  6. Rename the file if appropriate. 
  7. Finally, hit Save.

3. How to use Command Prompt to change a file type. 

Command Prompt, or CMD, is a more advanced way to change file extensions. It lets you tweak one or multiple files at once. Below is a breakdown of the syntax you'll use:

Single File Change: 

To switch up a single file's extension using Command Prompt, here's how:

  1. Open Command Prompt: Press Windows Key + R. In the pop-up, type cmd and press Enter
  2. Navigate to Folder: Use the cd command to move to the folder where your files are stored. Type cd /path/to/folder and hit Enter. You can also copy the folder path from the address bar in File Explorer that you wish to change (D:\Users\Rob\Documents\) Type cd Ctrl + V in Command Prompt to paste the file directory (cd D:\Users\Rob\Documents\) 
  3. Hit Enter, which will show a new line with the directory name. 
  4. Type ren: This command stands for 'rename'. 
  5. Specify Old and New Extensions: Type the current filename and its extension, followed by the new filename and extension. Format: oldfilename.ext newfilename.newext
  6.  Press Enter to execute the command.

For clarity, the full command should look like: ren oldfilename.ext newfilename.newext.  

Batch File Change: 

To change multiple file extensions in the same folder, do this:

  1. Navigate to Folder: Just like before, cd into the directory with the files you want to change. 
  2. Use Batch Rename: To change extensions for multiple files, you can use wildcards. Type: ren *.oldextension *.newextension
  3. Press Enter: This triggers the change for all files with the .oldextension to .newextension.

And there you have it! Multiple file extensions changed in one go. 

Command Prompt is powerful and could change every file extension in your drive if you key in the wrong command, so take extra care: 

  1. Ensure you're in the correct directory. 
  2. Be careful when renaming extensions of multiple files to avoid accidental data loss. 
  3. Always have a backup, just in case you need it.

This is obviously especially true if the files are essential to you.

By understanding these commands, you gain more control over your file management. Plus, CMD lets you handle batch changes easily, something you can't do with the more basic methods.

4. Use third-party software file converter 

As well as do-it-yourself, there are third-party software converters to help you. They all state your security is paramount and can convert pretty much any file—video, audio, text, you name it. But - do your own research and remember to safeguard any sensitive or proprietary information.

The companies listed below are online services, so there's no need to download software - upload your files and then wait for the conversion. They've got free options, but if you have larger file requirements or need greater speed, you can upgrade to a subscription service.

A) FreeConvert 

FreeConvert supports more than 1,500 file conversions. You can convert videos, images, audio files, or e-books; no sign-up is required.

Under the free tier, you have a daily limit of 25 conversion minutes, and each file is restricted to 5 conversion minutes. For larger files, a paid plan may be necessary.

Monthly plans range from $9.99 to $59.99, accommodating file sizes from 1.5GB to 9GB. The service holds a 4.6-star rating on Trustpilot.

B) Convertio 

Convertio outshines competitors with a staggering 25,600 conversions across 300+ file formats, making it one of the most versatile options.

Not just basic conversions, Convertio also offers advanced settings. For instance, you can tweak quality, aspect ratio, and codecs in video conversions or rotate and flip videos.

The service aims to make your file conversions quick and hassle-free, completing most tasks in under 2 minutes.

Pricing Tiers: 

  • Light ($9.99/month): 500MB max file size, 25 concurrent conversions, high priority. 
  • Basic ($14.99/month): 1GB max file size, 50 concurrent conversions, higher priority. 
  • Unlimited ($25.99/month): No file size limits, unlimited concurrent conversions, the highest priority.

Convertio enjoys high user satisfaction with a Trustpilot score based on over 6,400 reviews.

C) Zamzar 

Zamzar boasts quick conversions, usually wrapping up in under 10 minutes. Their diverse offerings cover everything from video-to-audio swaps like MP3 to WAV to more unique services like text-to-speech (TXT to MP3) and file compression.

Free Plan Limits: 

Their free plan with no sign-up required is restricted with only a 5MB file size limit. Great for small, quick jobs but better options above.

Pricing and Features: 

  • Basic ($18/month): Max file size of 200MB and 25 concurrent conversions. 
  • Pro ($30/month): Max file size of 400MB and 50 concurrent conversions. 
  • Business ($49/month): Max file size of 2GB and 100 concurrent conversions.

All paid plans include unlimited conversions, larger file sizes, and faster conversion speeds. Although pricier than some alternatives, their extensive service offerings could justify the higher cost.

Zamzar enjoys a strong reputation with a 4.6 Trustpilot rating based on 1,153 reviews. 

Don’t Forget:   

  • Changing a file extension doesn't change what's inside the file or its format. It just tells the computer and programs how to handle it. 
  • You need to be careful when you play around with extensions because if you get it wrong, you might end up with a corrupted file that won't work. 
  • It's always best to make a copy before changing any extensions. 
  • Never – and this really means not even once - change system file extensions. Doing this might lead to system instability, affect security, or even break your computer.

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Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.


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