What Does DAT do?

When working with eDiscovery and setting up electronic data to be imported into a review database, you will sometimes hear the techie folks refer to a "dat file".  This dat file is probably something you would rather not add to the memory storage of your brain but you also can't help but wonder what it is and what it does.

Simply put, a .dat file is a file which databases use to import data and tell the data were to go.  The .dat file is one of the most crucial pieces of setting up a document review database.  You can open a .dat file using notepad or Excel but you probably don't want to.  If you open it in notepad you will see a bunch of text and symbols.  You won't make much sense out of it.  The dat file contains all of the information about you data.  It also points the database to the location of you images, native files and text.  So, if you are in the document database and you want to see the image, the dat file will tell the database where to pull it up so you can view it.  Same for the native and text files.

The best way to see the contents of a dat file is to open it in Excel.  In Excel's spreadsheet view, it will look cleaner than just opening the dat file in notepad or other text file viewer.

The way the dat file is set up, there are symbols called "delimiters" which are essentially the boundaries for each field of information.  Most dat files will start with a field named "begdoc" which is what you might use as your Bates Number.  The fields may vary depending on the type of data you have.  Email data will contain a lot of fields in the dat file such as "date received", "data sent", "author", etc.  

Here is an example of a dat file:

Scary isn't it?  Just keep in mind that those strange symbols are the boundaries for the data in that field.  In the example above, here's how you would read it comparing Line #2 with the headers in Line #1

  • BEGNO is 00010002
  • ENDNO is 00010002
  • DOCDATE is 00/00/0000
  • DOCTYPE is File Note
  • DOCTITLE is MMC Writing Attendance Note....
  • We would have to scroll over to see the TO, FROM and PAGES data.
One of the things that can really screw up the dat file is when the paths to the images/text/natives are in a different location.  This can easily be fixed by finding/replacing the path with the correct location.

So what creates a dat file anyway?

After data has been ingested into an eDiscovery software, the dat file is produced when the data is exported.  So when you give your lit support specialist your raw data, they ingest the data and produce images and text from the data which will produce the dat file when it is exported.

As I always tell you, please consult with a litigation support professional if you need assistance with these issues.  


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