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What are Windows .cab files used for?

Answer: Cab files are Windows "Cabinet Files" that store compressed data used for software installations. They are used for the initial install of the operating system, as well as for reinstalling software. You can extract the contents of a .cab file by doing the following:

Go to the Start Menu and choose "Run..."
If you are using Windows 98, type "sfc" and press Enter. Then choose "Extract one file from the installation disk." If you are using Windows Millennium Edition, type "msconfig" and press Enter. Select the General tab and click "Extract File." You should then be allowed to extract specific components from the installation disk to install on your system. Some .cab files may also be available on your hard drive in your System folder.

There are many different .cab files included with Windows, though the system files are usually named something like WIN98_55.CAB, WIN98_56.CAB, WIN98_57.CAB, WIN98_58.CAB, WIN98_59.CAB, WIN98_60.CAB, etc. Driver files are typically named DRIVER11.CAB, DRIVER12.CAB, DRIVER13.CAB, DRIVER14.CAB, DRIVER15.CAB, etc.

While .cab files can often reinstall the files you need, sometimes you will need to install the entire Windows operating system again. If this is the case, be sure to back up all your data first, as restoring your system will delete all the data on your hard drive.

Published: April 22, 2005 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center