Temporary File

What Does Temporary File Mean?

Temporary files, as the name suggests, are files that are created to hold data temporarily while a more permanent option is still in the process of being created. These files are often created for backup purposes by various programs in case the user has not explicitly saved and the computer unexpectedly loses power or crashes.


Temporary files are also known as temp files.

Techopedia Explains Temporary File

A temporary file is any file created by a program that serves a temporary purpose and is created due to various reasons such as temporary backup, when a program is manipulating data larger than the architecture’s address space capacity or to break up large chunks of data into more manageable pieces, or simply as a dated way of performing inter-process communication. Most temporary files are easily recognizable with their “.tmp” extensions, but this may differ depending on the program that created them.

In terms of backup purposes, Microsoft’s Office applications are good examples of this. For example, Microsoft Word and Excel save a temporary file associated with the current open document that it points to after a computer has recovered from a crash or power outage. After the computer has recovered and the application is started, it asks whether to load or dismiss the autosaved file. The temporary file is updated regularly, but not so often that all work is always saved. Internet browsers also save temporary files called “temporary Internet files” which contain cached information on recently or frequently visited sites so that they load faster on the succeeding times they are opened.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.