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In computer science, configuration files provide the parameters and initial settings for the operating system and some computer applications. Configuration files are usually written in ASCII encoding and contain all necessary data about the specific application, computer, user or file. Configuration files can be used for a wide range of reasons, though they are mostly used by operating systems and applications to customize the environment. Configuration files are used for operation system settings, server processes or software applications.
Configuration files are also known as config files.
Configuration files can be identified with the help of the extensions such as .cnf, .cfg or .conf. Most computer applications and operating systems read their configuration files at bootup or startup. Certain applications periodically check the configuration files for changes. Administrators or authorized users can provide instructions to applications to re-read the configuration files and apply any changes to process as needed or even read arbitrary files as configuration files. There are no predefined conventions or standards as far as configuration files are concerned. Certain applications provide tools for modifying, creating or verifying the syntax of the configuration files. Some configuration files can be created, viewed or modified with the help of a text editor. In the case of Windows operating systems, the most important configuration files are stored in in the Registry and MIF files.
System administrators can make use of configuration files to set policies of how applications should be run in the enterprise's devices and computers. Configuration files can be used by users to change settings without the need to recompile applications, programs or operating systems.