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What Is a File?

At its core, a file is a contiguous set of bytes used to store data. This data is organized in a specific format and can be anything as simple as a text file or as complicated as a program executable. In the end, these byte files are then translated into binary 1 and 0 for easier processing by the computer.

Files on most modern file systems are composed of three main parts:

  1. Header: metadata about the contents of the file (file name, size, type, and so on)
  2. Data: contents of the file as written by the creator or editor
  3. End of file (EOF): special character that indicates the end of the file

What this data represents depends on the format specification used, which is typically represented by an extension. For example, a file that has an extension of .gif most likely conforms to the Graphics Interchange Format specification. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of file extensions out there.

Comments & Discussion

michelnakhla on Aug. 25, 2019

Excellent videos with crisp clear explanations.

billlittlewood on Nov. 6, 2019

sorry to nit-pick, but rather than being a contiguous set of bytes used to store data, I’d like to suggest a different description: a contiguous series of bytes used to store data.

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