Any application may be capable of generating a file with a DAT file extension. A DAT file is commonly used by generic data files and has no defined structure, making it quite difficult to establish the origin or the program that created it. And if that is not enough, it is more difficult to understand the content of the file once a user finds a way to open it.
The reason behind this difficulty is the fact that DAT files may hold data in either text or binary format and the information is widely dependent on the program that created them. Meaning, DAT files are specific to the application hat created it and will follow this program’s file structure. Several clues can reveal the identity of the application that created the DAT file though. Some of these clues are the location and the name of the DAT file as most DAT files are stored within the application’s folder.
Some DAT files though are made up of text and so they can be opened through any text editor and can be easily read. However, some DAT files can be very large and so it may take some time to open it and will only disappoint the user especially if it reveals little or no information at all regarding the program that created it.
One example of a DAT file is Internet Explorer’s Index.DAT which contains information that the browser uses like URL and many more. For this particular DAT file, it serves as database for the browser where the program can easily access any information that it needs whenever it needs it. Instant Messenger applications like Yahoo Messenger also generates DAT files where it keeps chat history (archive). Obviously, only Yahoo Messenger can access and recover this file when needed.
Thus, for both Mac OS and Windows OS, only original programs that created the DAT file as well as any text editor can only open files with a DAT file extension.