How to Open .lnk Files on Mac

Nicholas Russell
By Nicholas Russell 13 Min Read
13 Min Read

Hey there! Have you ever stumbled upon some files ending with “.lnk” and scratched your head, wondering what on Earth they are? Especially if you’re using a Mac, these little files can seem pretty mysterious since they don’t open up like other files. Well, guess what? You’ve landed in the perfect spot to unravel this mystery!

These .lnk files are actually pretty simple, but they can be a bit of a puzzle on a Mac. Why? Because they are like little signposts used by Windows computers, not Macs. But don’t worry, I’ve got some neat tricks up my sleeve to help you out. I’m Eric, and I’ve been diving into all sorts of computer systems and file types as a software engineer. I love sharing what I know about these digital mysteries.

Curious about these .lnk files? Want to know what they do, why they exist, and how you can peek inside them on your Mac? Keep on reading! We’re going to explore all about .lnk files – what they are, why they’re used, how to open them on a Mac, and the cool info they can reveal. Let’s get started! 🚀🖥️

What are LNK files?

So, you’ve come across some files ending with “.lnk” and are wondering what they’re all about? Let me break it down for you in a super simple way. If you’re finding these .lnk files on things like a USB flash drive or an external hard drive, there’s a good chance they came from a Windows PC. Why? Because .lnk files are like homegrown veggies in the Windows garden – they’re native to Windows operating systems.

Imagine you’re on a Windows computer, looking at the desktop. You see those handy little icons that take you straight to your programs or documents, right? Those are shortcut files. On your desktop, they don’t parade around with their “.lnk” badges, but they’re actually there in disguise. If you were to use Windows Explorer and peek into the desktop folder with the right settings, you’d see these “.lnk” tags hanging out with the file names.

What’s inside these .lnk files, you ask? They’re like treasure maps – they contain clues and directions that tell Windows where the real file is hiding and which program is best to open or run it. There’s also some extra info packed in there, like special instructions or parameters for the application. Think of them as the secret guides to your files and programs! 🗺️💻

How to Open .lnk Files on a Mac

Alright, let’s talk about how you can open those mysterious .lnk files on your Mac. It’s important to remember that these files aren’t really meant for Macs – they’re like fish out of water here because they’re designed for Windows. But don’t worry, I’ve got a cool trick to help you peek inside them!

If you try double-clicking on a .lnk file on your Mac, you’ll probably get a message that looks a bit confusing. It’s like your Mac saying, “What am I supposed to do with this?” If you see this, just hit the ‘Cancel’ button and step back. There are other ways to try and open these files, but they can be hit or miss. Let me guide you through a super simple method that works like a charm.

Step 1: Find your .lnk file in Finder. This is like playing detective – look through your files and spot the one ending in “.lnk”.

Step 2: Right-click on the .lnk file. It’s just a click away to unlock its secrets!

Step 3: Choose ‘Open With’, and then select ‘’. Think of TextEdit like a magnifying glass that helps you see what’s hidden inside the file.

Can’t find ‘’ right away? No problem! Click on ‘Other…’, and it’ll show up in a new window. Select it from there, and voila! You’re all set to open the file with TextEdit.

Once you’ve got the file open in TextEdit, you’ll see a bunch of text and characters. It might look like secret code at first, but it’s just the info packed inside the .lnk file. Now you’re in the know!

What Can I do With the .lnk File on My Mac?

Opened that .lnk file on your Mac and found yourself staring at a jumble of text and weird characters? Don’t worry, you’re not reading it wrong. It’s because .lnk files are binary files, not your usual text files. So, now you might be thinking, “What can I actually do with this file on my Mac?”

Well, the straightforward answer is… not much, unfortunately. Remember, .lnk files are like shortcuts designed for Windows, not Mac. So, clicking on them won’t magically open any applications. Your Mac just doesn’t speak the same language as these files.

Even if your Mac could understand them, the apps that these shortcuts point to are likely not even on your Mac. And if they were, they still wouldn’t work as intended. But don’t lose heart! There’s still something you can learn from these files.

If you’re curious about what program the shortcut was for, and where it lived on the original Windows machine, the .lnk file can tell you that. For example, you might see that it was pointing to something like Skype in the user’s Program Files directory on Windows.

Why would this matter? Imagine you’ve lost some important files but still have the shortcuts on a USB drive. By looking at the .lnk file, you could figure out where the original files were. For programmers or software developers, this is like finding a treasure map. It can give clues about how an application was started, where it was stored, who made it, and other cool details.

So, while you can’t use the .lnk file on your Mac in the traditional sense, it can be a little window into the world of the Windows system where it came from. It’s all about the information hidden inside! 🕵️‍♂️💾🔍

Can .lnk Files Harm My Mac?

Mostly, yes! As we’ve talked about, .lnk files are generally just shortcut files from a Windows PC. They’re pretty harmless in themselves. But here’s a heads-up: sometimes, sneaky people might disguise a harmful file with viruses or malware as a .lnk file. That’s why it’s super important to be careful. If you’re not sure where the file came from, it might be safer to just leave it alone. Curiosity is great, but not when it risks your computer’s health!

How Did .lnk files Get on My USB Flash Drive?

Wondering how these .lnk files got onto your USB drive? Well, it often happens when someone tries to copy files from a Windows PC to the drive by dragging and dropping them. But instead of copying the whole files, this action sometimes just creates shortcut files. So, what you get are these .lnk files pointing back to the originals on the PC, not the actual files you wanted.

Can I Just Delete the .lnk Files?

Now that you know what’s inside these .lnk files and realized they’re not much use to you on a Mac, you might be thinking about deleting them. And you’re right! If they’re not useful, there’s no reason to keep them around. They’re just taking up unnecessary space. Feel free to send them off to the trash. Your Mac and you don’t really need these files for anything else.

Final Words

So, you’ve discovered some .lnk files on your removable drive, or they’ve somehow made their way onto your Mac. Initially, you might have been puzzled or even a bit concerned about what these files are and whether they could pose a risk. But as we’ve seen, in most cases, these files are pretty harmless. And now, you’re equipped with the knowledge to open them if you’re curious.

However, let’s be real: while .lnk files can offer a glimpse of information, they’re not really useful in the Mac environment. They’re like a fish out of water here. So, if you’ve peeked into them and found they don’t serve any purpose for you, feel free to declutter your digital space and remove them.

But hey, if you’ve stumbled upon another way to open these .lnk files on your Mac or found an interesting use for them, I’m all ears! Your experiences and insights could be a great addition to what we’ve discussed. Sharing knowledge is how we all grow smarter, right? So, drop a comment, and let’s keep the conversation going. Who knows what other cool tricks and tips we might uncover together! 🌟💡🖥️


What are .lnk Files?

.lnk files are shortcut files native to Windows operating systems. They contain data that helps the system locate the actual file and determine the necessary application to open or run it.

Can I Open .lnk Files on a Mac?

Yes, you can open .lnk files on a Mac using TextEdit. However, they won’t function as shortcuts like they do in Windows. You can view the file’s contents, but it won’t interact with Mac software in the same way.

Are .lnk Files Harmful to My Mac?

Generally, .lnk files are harmless as they are simply shortcut files from a Windows PC. However, caution is advised as sometimes harmful files might be disguised as .lnk files.

How Do .lnk Files End Up on My USB Flash Drive?

.lnk files typically appear on a USB drive when files are dragged and dropped from a Windows PC. Instead of copying the actual files, this action may create shortcuts pointing back to the original files on the PC.

Is There Any Use for .lnk Files on a Mac?

While they don’t serve their intended purpose as shortcuts, .lnk files can provide information about the file’s original location and the application it’s associated with on a Windows system.

Can I Delete .lnk Files from My Mac?

Yes, if .lnk files are not useful to you on a Mac, you can safely delete them. They’re not necessary for the functioning of your Mac and may just occupy space.

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