I will often download .exe files and soon decide I do not wish do download them (just want to make sure I don't get a virus). Is it possible that I could get a virus from these downloads before I even run the executable?

  • You have two questions. Your title is different from the content. Can you clarify what you want to know
    Jun 26, 2017 at 21:23
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    You can get a virus just by having your PC running. So big yes, you can get viruses without executing exe files.
    – BlueWizard
    Jun 26, 2017 at 22:25
  • @BlueWizard if you regularly apply OS updates, don't just have a bunch of open ports, and don't open unknown documents and programs, chances of getting a virus are close to zero.
    – vgru
    Jun 28, 2017 at 19:23
  • @Groo Disagreed. There was once a case where a popular image drivers allowed arbitrary code execution when being presented with manipulated image files. Thus you can get infected just by looking at an image from some website. OS updates won't save you. You run tons of stuff on your computer. All of this might be buggy and all of this might be exploided. Be it your email program, your document viewer or your browser
    – BlueWizard
    Jun 28, 2017 at 21:03
  • For all the time I've had a PC, the number of zero day exploits that can infect you without you doing something silly, that I can remember, is very small. In fact, I can think of only the GDI+ overrun (probably the image exploit you mentioned) and a couple of worms in the Windows XP era (but even then could have been prevented with regular updates). So I am just saying that the chances are very slim, not zero, but you have a greater chance of losing your unbackuped data due to disk failure. :)
    – vgru
    Jun 28, 2017 at 23:33

2 Answers 2


It is possible for the act of merely downloading a file and doing nothing with it to be a security vulnerability, but this is true of any file type (not just exe files), and attacks of this nature are much more difficult than simply tricking random people into opening an untrusted file. This kind of attack would be exploiting some error in your browser or download manager's programming to execute arbitrary code rather than running a malicious exe file directly. This would essentially be equivalent to getting a "drive-by-download" virus from visiting a website, except it would be exploiting the download engine rather than the browser scripting or rendering engine.

Executable (exe) files are mainly dangerous because they run a program on your computer. If you run a program you are giving it permission to do anything your user account has access to do, including installing other programs, reading or destroying data, modifying system configuration, etc. If you do not run that file then it does not execute and you have not given it permission to do anything


You can get a virus from many file type including exe files.

PDF and office files are very common. Especially office files that contain macros. E.g in word it could be a .docm extension

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