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DATSo you’re stuck with a DAT file (.dat file extension) that was supposed to be a WORD document and you don’t know what to do with it? Don’t worry, help is here!

You probably wonder what a DAT file is in the first place. Simply put, DAT files contain data in text or binary format.

They are typically found as winmail.dat files in email attachments, created by Microsoft Exchange Servers. But many other programs can create .dat files as well. So if the name doesn’t give it away, it’s difficult to tell whether you’re dealing with text, pictures, movies or something completely different.

Giving advice on how to open a DAT file of an unknown source is difficult because there are so many options, depending on the original source of the file. But say you were supposed to receive a WORD document and what you did receive was a document with a .dat file extension. Basically, you have two straight forward options to open and convert a DAT file into a Word doc.

First, you could try to change the file extension. In case you don’t see file extensions in Windows, go to the folder that contains your .dat file, click Tools and select Folder Options. Switch to the View tab and uncheck the option Hide extensions for known file types.


convert a dat file into word doc

Second, you could simply try to open the .dat file with WORD or notepad or the program you suspect created the original file. To do this, right-click on the .dat file, select Open With from the menu, then select an application from the list or click Choose Program… to pick another.

Once you successfully opened the DAT file, you’re at least half way to converting that DAT file into a Word doc. But once again, there are several options.

Say we’re still dealing with a .dat file that originally was a .doc file. You changed the file extension and now that you open the file in WORD it looks fine. In fact, you already “converted” your file – congratulations!

convert a dat file

If you managed to open with WORD, the easiest way to “convert” your file from .dat to .doc, is to save the document using WORD. And there you go. It wasn’t that hard, was it?

Now let’s get a little more serious. All the strategies above didn’t work and your file doesn’t display properly? Maybe it’s time to use a file converter. If Microsoft Outlook messed with your attachments, chances are that will get you out of the mess.

From within the Extract tab browse for the respective .dat file on your computer, send it and wait for the Results to show in the respective tab. The file size limit with this service is 5MB.

how to open a dat file

There really isn’t more to it than that. To successfully retrieve data from a .dat file or convert it to its original file format, you need to know the source or the original file type.

Is there another smart trick that I missed out on? Please share your knowledge in the comments!

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  1. Alex Wall
    February 14, 2017 at 4:01 am

    I had three assignments unsaved on wps writer when the program unexpectedly closed itself. I have recovered them as .dat files and I've tried to convert them with the above method but nothing seems to be working. Please help!!!

    • Tina Sieber
      February 14, 2017 at 11:35 am

      I'm afraid I don't know of another way to convert DAT files or how to recover lost WPS Writer files. If you do find a solution, please share it here. Thank you!

  2. Bernadette McGinnis
    February 11, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    I am working on a case where I am reviewing Discovery for a Criminal Matter. The Prosecution sent the "alleged" audio files. I have 15 disks in total, the two audio disks have a total of 20 tracks. All tracks were "Modified on 8/1/16" according to the properties section of each track it says it has a total of 1MB per track. Since this is supposed to be an "audio" disk, it is impossible to only be 1MB for ANY KIND OF RECORDING much less telephone conversations the officer said he uploaded. You can see on the back of the disk that there at one time, was data or audio, or whatever. The tread, for the lack of a better word is approximately 1/4 inch on the disk. How can find out what exactly these are, and since they are audio (allegedly) they should not be .dat files right? Unless they corruped the disks intentionally? Right? I need answers quick! HELPPPPP

    • Tina Sieber
      February 12, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Dear Bernadette, pure audio recordings can take up very little space, especially when recorded in a low quality. Have you tried converting the DAT file to an audio file format?

  3. Devaraj
    October 28, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    This was very helpful. However, I have a peculiar problem and please let me know if have a way out of it. I have nearly 400 .dat files which were originally .doc files. Manually, opening each of them and saving it to .doc is a drag. Is there way to do a batch conversion? Please let me know and thank you for a great job.

    • Tina Sieber
      October 30, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Yes, a batch conversion is possible. You can either do it via the Windows command line or you can use a utility like Bulk Extension Changer. Good luck!

  4. Jim
    October 7, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Lifesaver! Thank you so much; the site helped me covert the file into Word.

    • Tina Sieber
      October 8, 2016 at 5:58 pm

      Glad this is still working. Thank you for the feedback, Jim!

  5. Pat
    May 6, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    How do I do this on an iPhone?

    • Tina Sieber
      May 6, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      That's a question I can't answer, but I'll refer it to our iOS editor.

  6. 3paws
    November 16, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    converting .dat to a word file worked like a charm on office 2007. It was a word file from a mac. I moved it from the e-mail to the desktop, file>open>desktop change options from .doc (they don't call that anymore) to all, and it opened it on the blank page I started. I looked back and found they used Word 93 to open it, go figure.

  7. Simon
    October 13, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Use google doc to open it, although it may loss the format/layout, but you get the content at least.

  8. Robert Jacobs
    October 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I handle these files by using the free version of WMDecode

  9. George
    October 7, 2009 at 7:07 am

    This is a very dangerous process to do as it could activate malware and/or viruses to run within MS-Word or whatever the program you decide to change the extension to.

    If you have a strange file on your PC or via email and you are not expecting it, then DELETE it and ask for it to be re-sent.

    • Tina
      October 7, 2009 at 7:26 am


      thanks for the warning! I do hope that people are careful with unknown files and don't attempt to open any random eMail attachment.

      However, if you expect a file and it unexpectedly arrives in the wrong format, meaning you cannot access it, use the methods described above.

  10. lorrytyre
    October 7, 2009 at 5:41 am

    I think its more appropriate to visit the winmail opener from

    That applies to getting emails sent from microsoft exchange, outlook or outlook express users.

    Uploading a file to get it extracted does not seem to be a good idea from the start.

    • Tina
      October 7, 2009 at 7:30 am

      Thank you for sharing this tool lorrytyre.

      The advantage of uploading a file for extraction is that it will be unpacked in a neutral place. So if it ends up to be a file you didn't want, you can simple leave it where it is.

      Of course you are concerned about someone stealing the content of the uploaded file. Let me say that sensitive information should not be attached to an eMail in the first place. eMails are not safe, unless encrypted very well.