How to change Default Apps for opening files in Windows?

By Eunice Samson | October 1, 2019 |

greater than 7 minutes

It is not uncommon for Windows to open up certain files, using the wrong application. So, if you’re experiencing the same problem, you can find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Of course, there’s always the easier option of right-clicking the file you wish to open with a certain app and choosing the Open with option. However, it can be frustrating to have to perform that extra step every time you open the file you need.

As such, we will teach you how to change the default apps in Windows 10 by file type. Also referred to as ‘changing file associations,’ this method will help you open files more conveniently.

What Are Default Apps in Windows 10?

When you install Windows 10, you will notice that it already comes with some built-in apps. You are also free to use tools to customize how you will manage and open files on this operating system. This feature can be useful when you have professional preferences when it comes to certain apps.

For instance, the built-in app for playing music on Windows 10 is Groove Music. However, most of us prefer using Windows Media Player or VLC Media Player. Microsoft lets you change your default apps on Windows 10. This way, you can open, manage, or edit media files, using the software program you prefer.

Changing the default apps is not a new feature on the Windows operating system. Windows 8 also has the same functionality. On the other hand, Windows 10 offers a new user interface for managing default apps. The process is quite different from what Windows XP, 7, or 8 offers.

Before Anything Else…

You need to know the type of the file that you wish to change the association of. You can do that by right-clicking the file, then selecting Properties from the context menu. Once the Properties window is up, look at the Type of File area. The three-letter designation next to it should be the file’s type.

Now, there are two ways to change file associations in Windows 10:

  • Using the Open With Option
  • Using the Settings App

Keep reading this article to learn how to change the default apps in Windows 10 by file type. We will also throw in some bonus tips related to file associations in this post.

Method 1: Using the Open With Option

The easiest way to change the association for a single file type is by using the Open with option, which we mentioned earlier. On the other hand, if you need to change the associations for multiple file types, you should skip to the next method. To begin, follow the steps below:

  1. Right-click a file of the type that you wish to change the default app for.
  2. Select Open with from the resulting menu.
  3. You will see the app or list of apps that your operating system recommends for the file. Any of these apps can function as the default for the file type you’re dealing with. If you notice any app that you like, select it. Don’t forget to select the box which says, ‘Always use this app to open [file type] files.’

Note: If your preferred app is not on the list, you can search for it by clicking More Apps. Doing so will show you an expanded list of installed applications on your PC. On the other hand, you can add your preferred app by clicking the ‘Look for an app in the Store’ button.

  1. Once you’ve chosen the app for the file type, you can click the gray OK button to set it as the default.

From there, any files of that type will be launched with the application you chose.

Method 2: Using the Settings App

If you want to set the default apps for multiple file types, then your best option is to use the Settings app. Here are the steps:

  1. On your keyboard, press Windows Key+X.
  2. Select Settings from the menu.
  3. Note: You can also press Windows Key+I to launch the Settings app.
  4. Click Apps from the options.
  5. Now, go to the left-pane menu and click Default Apps.
  6. Move to the right pane, then scroll down. Click the ‘Choose default apps by file type’ link.

Note: You will see a list of all the file types that Windows 10 supports. Beside the file types, you will see the applications associated with them. You will see a gray ‘+’ icon if there is no app associated with the file type yet.

  1. Browse through the list until you find the file type that you want to change the association for. To change its default app, click the + icon to its right.
  2. Select your preferred app from the list, and if it is not available, then click the ‘Look for an app in the Microsoft Store’ option.

Windows may recommend multiple app options for some file types. Meanwhile, you will see others that do not have any suggested apps. If you’re not presented with an option, you can download a suitable app from the Internet. On the other hand, you can always click the ‘Look for an app in the Microsoft Store’ icon. Once you’ve selected your preferred app, you’re done!

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Resetting All Default Apps in Windows 10

If you want to undo the changes you’ve made, you can use the same steps we shared in the two methods above. However, if for whatever reason, you’d want to restore default associations, you can follow the steps below:

  1. On your keyboard, press Windows Key+S. Doing so will launch the Search box.
  2. Inside the Search box, type “Settings” (no quotes), then hit Enter.
  3. Select Apps from the options.
  4. Go to the left pane and select Default Apps.
  5. Now, move to the right pane, then scroll down until you see the Reset button.
  6. Click the Reset button to use the built-in apps as the defaults for all the file types.

After clicking the Reset button, the file types will open with their original default system apps. For instance, web links will load in Edge and music files will open in Groove.

How to Change the Default Apps for Other Windows Versions

We understand that some users find this article even when they’re searching for guides for other Windows versions. So, we’ve also added instructions for Windows 8 and older variants of the operating system.

How to Change the Default Apps in Windows 8, 7, or Vista

  1. Launch Control Panel. You can use the Power User Menu (Windows Key+X) in Windows 8. If you’re using Windows 7 or Vista, you can access Control Panel via the Start menu.
  2. Select Programs.
  3. Make sure you are on the Control Panel Home or Category view of Control Panel. Select Default Programs ->Associate a file type.
  4. After a few seconds, the Set Associations tool will load. Browse through the list until you find the file type that you want to modify the default program for.
  5. Above the scroll bar, you will see the Change Program button.
  6. For Windows 8: On the ‘How do you want to open this type of file [file extension]?’ window, look for your preferred program for the file type.
  7. For Windows 7 & Vista: On the ‘Open With’ window, look for the app you want to associate with the file extension. You can choose from the Recommended Programs list. However, you are free to choose from the Other Programs list too. If you want to choose other apps apart from what’s available, you can look for programs manually.
  8. Once you’ve found the app, you can click OK. To see the new default app assigned to the file type, you can refresh the list of file associations. Once you’re done making changes, you can close the Set Associations window.

After performing these steps, files of that type will open with the default program you chose.

How to Change Default Apps in Windows XP

  1. Click the Start button, then select Control Panel.
  2. Choose Appearance and Themes.
  3. Make sure you are on the Category View of Control Panel.
  4. At the bottom of the window, select Folder Options.
  5. Go to the File Types tab.
  6. Browse through the registered file types until you locate the file extension you want to manage.
  7. Select the extension to highlight it.
  8. In the lower section, click Change.
  9. On the Open With screen, select the default app for the file type.
  10. If you do not see your preferred app, you can choose the ‘Select the program from a list’ option, then click OK.

Note: You may see your preferred app under the Recommended Programs or Programs list. However, you can also manually select the app by clicking the Browse button.

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Just because you’ve changed the default program for a file type, it doesn’t mean that you cannot use other apps that support it. For instance, you can choose Windows Media Player as the default app for .mp3 files. However, you can still choose to open this file type with VLC Media Player. All you need to do is right-click the.mp3 file you want to play, then select Open with from the options. What’s important is that file types launch with the appropriate apps.

Now, if you notice that certain file types are opening with weird apps, then you should check for malware. You can use the built-in security app on your OS. However, if you want a more comprehensive scan, you should use a more reliable tool like Auslogics Anti-Malware. This software program can detect malicious programs no matter how discreetly they operate in the background. You can rest easy knowing that your computer and files are safe from threats and attacks.

We hope this article helped you solve your woes regarding default apps for file types.

If you have suggestions for improving this post, let us know in the comments below.

Fed up with your slow PC? Tired of waiting for Windows to start up? Take a look at the most common reasons behind poor performance and the best ways to deal with them here.
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