What are File Headers? (Signatures)

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Many file types can be identified by using what’s known as a file header. A file header is a ‘signature’ placed at the beginning of a file, so the operating system and other software know what to do with the following contents.

Many electronic discovery applications will use the file header as a means to verify file types. The common fear is if a custodian changes a files extension or the file wasn’t named using an applications default naming convention, that file will be missed during electronic discovery processing. For example, if I create a Microsoft Word document and name it ‘myfile.001’, instead of ‘myfile.doc’ and then attempt to locate all Microsoft Word files at a later date, I would miss the file if I were looking for all files ending in ‘.doc’. There are specific file extensions associated with the native application.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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