You may have read somewhere that you need to access the EXE file for your game(s). But what exactly is an EXE file, are they safe, and how do they work?
What Is A Game EXE File?
A game EXE file is a file with the extension “.exe”. The EXE files in games are the programs that actually launch and run the game. A game folder may have many folders full of the images, videos, scripts, etc that are needed to run the game, but the EXE is the executable file that actually launches and runs the game.
EXE just stands for executable. So an EXE file is any file with “.exe” at the end of its name. These executable files are programs that run code when they’re launched.
Most games are sorted into many folders, all of which contain different resources. There may be a folder for scripts, there’s probably one for images, models, etc.
Opening the EXE file will run a program that will grab the resources from the other folders and use them to run the actual game that you play. So, in short, the EXE launches and runs the main code of a game.
Now, some games consist solely of an EXE file, but this is rare nowadays. It can still happen, especially with indie games, but for the most part standalone executables are not common.
If you download a game and there is only an EXE file, then it can be a little suspicious. However, if it is a small indie game, there may be nothing to worry about. Nonetheless, I would still run an antivirus check on it first.
Sometimes games will have an installer program that is an EXE file. These EXE files are not the game itself, but an EXE file that install the game.
After installation, there is usually a folder containing the resource folders I mentioned above along with the game’s actual EXE file.
The main game folder will also likely contain an uninstaller EXE file that you can use to quickly uninstall the game.
How Does An EXE File Work?
When an EXE file is double clicked (on Windows), the EXE file’s code is run by the computer. EXE files are “executable” files that contain binary code that can only be read by a computer. This code was compiled from source code that a programmer wrote previously in a high level language.
If you want to do a fun experiment, find an EXE file and rename it. Remove the “.exe” at the end of the file, then right click the file and click “open with” and select notepad.
This will show you exactly what’s inside of an EXE file. Now if you’ve done this you’ll see that a bunch of gibberish is inside of the EXE file.
This is because EXE files are executable files that are only readable by computers. We humans cannot read them and we’re not supposed to be able to read them.
Before they were executable (EXE) files, though, a human coder wrote the code that the program should run. Now, after a human writes the code, a compiler comes in and compiles that code to a machine readable file (EXE).
The compiler does this in order to make the EXE execute faster and run better. So now, when you launch the EXE file, your computer will read it and execute the code that it contains.
Where Can You Find The EXE File Of A Game?
To view a game’s EXE file, right click the game’s shortcut, then click properties to see the file location of the game’s EXE. When you install a game, it creates a folder with that game’s name that contains many sub folders. The EXE file should be in the very first folder. If the EXE isn’t there, try searching “.exe” in the main game folder.
EXE files are pretty easy to find most of the time, but sometimes they can be hidden. If you can’t find the EXE file of a game, then there are a few ways to locate it.
- Press the Windows Key to search
- Type in the name of your game
- Right click on the game and click “Open file location”
- If the file is a Shortcut, right click it and click “Properties”
- Look at “Target” to find the EXE’s location
Using The Game’s Shortcut
- Right click the Windows Shortcut for your game and click “Properties”
- Look at “Target” to find the EXE’s location
- Find your Steam folder (usually in your C: drive)
- Navigate to steam > steamapps > common
- Find the folder with the game’s name and the EXE should be in it
- Some games have a hidden EXE file, so you may need to make hidden files visible
Most of the time your game’s EXE will be located in the game’s installation folder (the folder with the game’s name that contains a bunch of other folders). Sometimes the EXE file will be hidden in a folder named “bin”, but not always. Steam games, especially, have a habit of hiding EXE files, so you may have to Google where a specific game holds its EXE. If you have a shortcut file that you use to launch the game, you can check its properties to find its Target, which is usually the EXE file.
Can You Change Where An EXE File Is Stored
You cannot change where an EXE file is stored because the EXE file has to be able to grab resources from the other folders and files that are stored along with it. You shouldn’t rearrange any files or folders in a program or game’s main folder because doing so could cause the program or game to stop working.
If you have a standalone EXE file (an EXE file that is not part of a larger folder), then you can move it anywhere you want. Just click it and drag it around, right click it and click “cut” the paste elsewhere, etc.
However, if you’re looking at the EXE file of a larger game or program, then you shouldn’t move it. The reason is because that EXE file knows where all of its resources are, but only in relation to where it’s at.
For example, let’s say you (the EXE file) live in a house and know the gas station is 3 houses down and across the street.
If you need to get a candy bar, you know you just have to move 3 houses down, then walk across the street. Now let’s say someone picks you up and places you across town (moving the EXE file).
Whenever you want a candy bar, you walk 3 houses down then walk across the street but, surprise surprise, no gas station and no candy bar.
Now you run into an error and your entire program explodes.
This is just one example of why you can’t change where EXE files are stored.
How Do You Run The EXE File Of A Game?
To run the EXE file of a game just double click the file. The game should automatically launch. Alternatively, you can right click the EXE file and click “open” or “run as administrator” in order to run the EXE file. Double clicking the game’s Shortcut will also run the game’s EXE file.
Running an EXE file is very easy as long as you know where the EXE file is. You just have to double click it and open it like you would any other file.
This is assuming you’re on Windows, at least, as it is much harder and more involved to run EXEs on Macs and non-windows PCs.
If you don’t know where the EXE file is, running the Shortcut file to the game will actually run the EXE file in a roundabout way.
You can also use Windows Search to find your game, and launching it that way will run the EXE file.
Can You Convert EXE Files To APK?
You cannot convert EXE files to APK. EXE files are built specifically to run on Windows computers and x86 architecture. APK files are built to run on ARM and Android Operating systems. There’s no way to convert an EXE file to an APK and if it were possible the files would run very slowly on Android.
There is absolutely no way to convert an EXE to an APK, at least not at the moment. There are “converters” out there, but these are likely viruses disguised as programs.
EXE and APK files are just too different for a conversion to be possible and it would require that an Android phone be able to emulate an entire Windows PC.
Are EXE Files Safe?
EXE files are safe as long as they are from a trusted source. EXE files are the main file type for programs, games, etc so the majority of them are safe. EXE files can be viruses, which is why it is not recommended to run an EXE file from an unknown source, however the majority of EXE files are safe.
If a stranger online sends you an EXE file through email, Dropbox, or Google Drive, it’s a bad idea to open it (or even download it).
However, if you download a program from a trusted source (for example, if you download Google Chrome directly from Google), then you will likely download an EXE file.
EXE files are just executable files and pretty much every computer program will run off of one, so yes they are safe to use from trusted sources.
Do EXE Files Have Viruses?
EXE files are not typically viruses, although they could be. EXE files are executable files and nearly every computer program runs off of an EXE file. There are some EXE files out there that contain viruses, which is why you should never download an EXE file from a source that you do not know and trust.
You shouldn’t launch just any EXE file you come across. This is especially true if you receive an EXE from someone directly (ie they email you an EXE file or they send you an EXE over Discord for example).
If you download an EXE file directly from a trusted source like Google, though, then it’s unlikely to have a virus.
EXEs are the backbones of computers and pretty much every program runs from an EXE, so most of them do not have viruses, but you should exercise caution.
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