What is an INI file?

So you are a power user! INI files, as mentioned, are really quite simple. An INI file is split into sections, labelled with square brackets. Each section can have zero or more key value pairs, as shown above with the dog example. The final item is comments, which start with a semi colon. Here is a quick example of an INI file:

(AmpSection)

enabled=1 reverb=30 timeout=15 sleep=5 startup=fast

(PreampSection)

enabled=0

So you can see it is pretty simple and straightforward. If you want more information on the actual structure of an INI file you might want to look at this great resource.

I really just wanted to know what (something).ini is

Fair enough! Sometimes you see a file, and all you want to know is exactly what the heck that file is doing on your computer. Probably the most common INI file you are going to find on your computer is the desktop.ini file. The most common use of this file is simply to set some custom information about a folder. You can do this by hand, or more commonly, Windows will do this for you when you are in an explorer window and head to Tools -> Options -> Folder Options. Alternatively you could be modifying some persistent view settings with other settings, but that one will cover them all in detail. To get more information on the desktop.ini file, head over to the MSDN article. The bottom line is that you really do not have to worry about this file, and you can safely delete it if it is really bothering you.

Another file you might see once in a while is the boot.ini file. This controls boot configuration on most Windows operating systems. If you have ever seen multiple options for booting an OS on your screen as your computer starts up, this is listed in the boot.ini file. DO NOT DELETE THIS FILE. If you do, some pretty bad things can happen to your computer. Instead you are much safer changing this file. Please read further information in this great article on href.com.

If you are looking for information on an INI file that is not listed here, you could try searching Google, or head over to microsoft.com if it is definitely a Microsoft Windows related file.

Can INI files be dangerous?

Yes, they can. However, it is EXTREMELY unlikely that you will find any malicious INI files on your computer. Instead, they will probably be essential to the operation of some esoteric portion of your computer. Do not remove an INI file unless you know exactly what you are doing!

Thank you for reading this article, and good luck.

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