What is a serial file?

Updated April 17, 2017

A serial file is one in which the information or files stored in it have been added in the order in which they occurred or have been saved. An analogy to a serial file is a grocery list; you add items to the list in the order that you need them or think of them, so the items are not in any particular order. Serial files can be stored on a disc or in your computer's internal memory.

Examples of Serial Files

An unsorted transaction file is a kind of serial file. It is a temporary collection of data that contains no organisation or categorisation. A record file is another kind of serial file; they store records of various kinds in the order the data was recorded. Serial files have no subsets or directories; they are not stored on the "C:/" drive directory, rather in your computer's internal memory.

Organization of Serial Files

When data is stored to a serial file, it is stored chronologically by when the process took place; information can only be appended to the end of the serial file, not in between any other records already in it. Items in a serial file are added like items to a list; when a new record is placed in the list it is added to the end, and not at the top or in the middle of the list.

Reading Serial Files

Whenever your computer reads serial files, it starts from the very first one; this is the earliest serial file stored on the computer's memory. The computer will then read each record or piece of data in the order that it was recorded, processed or saved. For example, if you want to read the sixth item in a serial file, you must wait until your computer has read through the first five items.

Benefits of Serial Files

Serial files are simple to understand and therefore simple to design because of how they store information. They are particularly efficient when activity levels on your computer are high because they can be accessed and read easily. Storing and reading serial files requires simple input and output, or I/O, media and storage devices.

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About the Author

Lindsay Howell has been writing since 2003. Her works have been featured in "Bittersweet," her campus literary magazine. Howell has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Frostburg State University.