computer information file

Program Information File

PIFs, or Program Information Files, define how a given MS-DOS program should be run in a multi-tasking environment, notably to avoid giving it unnecessary resources which could remain available to other programs. TopView was the originator of PIFs which were inherited and extended by DESQview and Microsoft Windows, where they are most often seen. PIF's are seldomly used today in software due to the absence of MS-DOS applications.

In Windows

Within Windows, a PIF holds information about how Windows should run the application the PIF corresponds to. The instructions can include the amount of memory to use, the path to the executable file, and what type of window to use (Full screen, window, size in pixels).


  • Creating a program information file for an MS-DOS-based program creates a shortcut to the program executable. All the settings saved in the PIF are contained in the shortcut.
  • Although an actual PIF does not contain any executable code (it lacks executable files magic number "MZ"), it is an ipso facto, and it can be used to transmit computer viruses because of the way Microsoft Windows handles files with (pseudo-)executables' extensions: all .COMs, .EXEs, and .PIFs are analysed by the ShellExecute function and will run accordingly to their content and not extension.

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