How to change default application (file association) in Windows 10

Office 365
Usually, when you double-click a file in File Explorer or open it by choosing the Open command from the popup menu (you can display the popup menu by right-clicking on the file), Windows starts an application that opens the file. For example, if you double-click a DOC or DOCX file (with a .doc, .docx extension), Windows runs the Microsoft Word application to open the selected file.

In other words, Windows stores which application should open which type of file. It stores file associations, or default programs, for each file type. Conversely, Windows remembers which applications work with which file types.

If you want, you can change the file associations on your local Windows system at any time. For example, if you prefer to open CSV files (.csv - comma-separated values file) in Notepad instead of Excel. Or if, for some reason, Windows gets confused and does not recognize the installed Adobe Acrobat Reader as an application for viewing PDF files (see an example below).

You can change default programs (file associations) by:

Change default programs (file associations) in Control Pane

You can change which application should open a specified file type in the Control Panel by following the next steps:

   1.   Open the Control Panel (see How to open Control Panel in Windows 10.).

   2.   In the Control Panel dialog box, in the Search Control Panel textbox, enter Default and choose Default Programs:

Default program Windows 10

   3.   On the next screen, click Associate a File Type or Protocol with a program link:

Associate a File Type Windows 10

   4.   In the Settings dialog box, scroll down to find the Choose default applications by file type link, then click on it:

Choose default applications by file type link in Windows 10

   5.   On the next screen of the Settings dialog box, under Choose default applications by file type, scroll down to find the extension of the file type (in this example, pdf), then click the associated program or + Choose a default:

Choose default applications by file type in Windows 10

Note: If you're not sure what extension the file is using, do the following:

  1. Open File Explorer to find the file.
  2. On the View tab, select the File name extensions option to show file extensions:
    File Explorer options in Windows 10
  3. In File Explorer, see the file extension:
    File extentions in File Explorer Windows 10

   6.   In the Choose an application dialog box, select the application you prefer or choose Look for an app in the Microsoft Store:

Choose an application dialog box in Windows 10

After selecting an application from the proposed list or in the Microsoft Store, close all Windows settings windows to save the changes.

Change default programs (file associations) by the Open with command in File Explorer

As mentioned above, we may have some trouble with file associations. For some reason, Windows "forgot" to associate PDF files (.pdf) with the Adobe Acrobat Reader application and opens them in Microsoft Edge:

Preview in Microsoft Edge Windows 10

To set up or change the default programs or file associations in the File Explorer, do the following:

   1.   On the File Explorer, right-click the specified type of file, then click Open with from the popup menu:

Open with in File Explorer Windows 10

   2.   From the Open with list, choose one of the following:

  • Another app you prefer to open this file type, such as Adobe Acrobat - this choice will work only once for this file only,
  • Search the Microsoft Store,
  • Choose another app (recommended).

If you selected Choose another app, in the How do you want to open this file? dialog box:

  1. Choose the application you prefer,
  2. Select the Always use this app to open *** files checkbox (*** - the file type you selected):
    Always use this app to open files in Windows 10
  3. Click the OK button to save the changes.

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