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Properly Opening a .dat File: Need Help

I was asked by a friend to figure out a way to read a document sent to him via Dropbox by another friend. The document is supposed to contain important written text, but it was sent as a .dat file. Extensive Googling suggests to try renaming it to different formats, such as .txt, .doc, etc.

I've tried several of these, but the text keeps coming out as gibberish. Here's an example of one string:

Seems to be a mix of different language characters, and Google Translate won't turn it into anything coherent. More research says the best thing to do is find out what program Friend B used to create the .dat, but he's currently away from town, and so far attempts to communicate with him have been null. I even took the file to Best Buy's Geek Squad, and they suggested to try AutoCAD. I downloaded the trial software, but no luck on that end either.

So I was wondering if there was any program or method to either decode what's on the .dat, or determine what program is required to view the information properly.


  • The AnonymousThe Anonymous Uh, uh, uhhhhhh... Uh, uh.Registered User regular
    Forget about the file extension completely. It serves no purpose other than telling Windows which program handles it.

    If it's definitely text and not a binary file (.dat is a generic file extension for, well, data), the text is likely encoded in a way your text editors didn't recognise. What programs did you use to open the file?

  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    So far I've tried:

    Notepad +
    MS Word
    MS Excel
    MS Outlook
    Adobe Reader
    Internet Explorer
    Mozilla Firefox

    I'm not too familiar with binary files and if this is in fact one, but wouldn't the data show up as binary code? Might be a dumb question for experts, all I know is this is supposed to be something that a person should be able to read. Would've been nice if Friend B mentioned how you were supposed to read it.

  • urahonkyurahonky Registered User regular
    Are you entirely sure Friend B even sent you the file? What I mean is, could it have been someone who spoofed his email?

  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    It was definitely him, it was taken from his personal Dropbox account.

    He also responded today and said that the file was created using Unix. I never used Unix before, so I need to research how/if I can use it with Windows 7.

  • MrDelishMrDelish Registered User regular
    edited April 2013
    I might suggest a hex editor like HxD but it sounds like you will need to open it with the program that made it in order to make any sense of the content.

    edit: speaking of hex, you can try and determine the file type by its first line of hex characters (called magic number -

    MrDelish on
  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    Well if I'm reading this right, the first line of hex in the file is "EF BB BF"

    Which, according to that chart:

    n/a Byte-order mark for 8-bit Unicode Transformation Format
    (UTF-8) files. (See the Unicode Home Page.)

    Not sure if that bring me any closer to cracking this thing.

  • MrDelishMrDelish Registered User regular
    edited April 2013
    Try this? Why can't you find out what program it was made in and open it using that?

    MrDelish on
  • Professor SnugglesworthProfessor Snugglesworth Registered User regular
    Well again, he's very difficult to get a hold of at the moment. Hopefully he'll respond to the numerous texts soon.

    At this point it's my only option left: even had a Geek Squad agent remotely access my PC (a procedure that made me feel rather dirty inside), and he couldn't figure it out either.

    So this guy needs to either re-send the file into something Windows users can access, or divulge what specific program he used to open it.

  • urahonkyurahonky Registered User regular
    Talking out loud, not sure if it'll work, but would Cygwin allow him to open the file?

  • MrDelishMrDelish Registered User regular
    edited April 2013
    Not unless he finds out which program it was made with. It's almost definitely an encoding issue but without seeing the entire file it's hard to tell exactly.

    MrDelish on
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited April 2013
    Looks like an encoding issue if that is indeed not a Binary file. I'm almost 100% positive it's a binary file, maybe try unicode or UTF-16 or UTF-32 or something, the chinese characters could be a giveaway that it's using a funky UTF encoding because someone's a moron.

    Have the guy export the data into txt format instead of dat. This guy is apparently a fucking moron.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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