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A data file is

a collection of information logically grouped into a single entity and referenced by a unique name, such as a filename.[1]
an organized collection of data, usually arranged in logical records that are stored together and treated as a unit by a computer.[2]
related numeric, textual, or graphic information that is organized in a strictly prescribed form and format.[3]


The term "data file" generally does not refer to files that contain instructions or code to be executed (typically called program files), or to files which define the operation or structure of an application or system (which include configuration files, directory files, etc.); but specifically to information used as input, and/or written as output by some other software program. This is especially helpful when debugging a program.


  1. NIST Special Publication 800-86, at 4-3.
  2. EPA, Vocabulary Catalog List Detail - Records Glossary (full-text).
  3. Id.

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