By default, Windows has assigned certain programs to be attributed to specific file types. For example, music files will initially run on Windows Media Player and webpage files will be opened in Internet Explorer. These programs are called default programs.

Assigning a default program

You can change the default program for web browsing, media playing, emailing, and other functions in your computer by the following procedures:

  • Go to Start (bottom-left of your screen by default).
  • Select Default Programs on the right panel.
  • Select Set your default programs.

In the window that appears, you can pick the program that will perform certain actions in your computer by default. Selecting Set this program as default will set all the file types that the program can read to run in it. Selecting Choose defaults for this program allows a user to specify which files to run in the program and which ones to not. In practice, this is useful if you want to open one type of music file in one program (e.g. *.mp3 files in iTunes) and another type of music file in another program (e.g. *.wma files in Windows Media Player).

Associating specific file types with a preferred program

For those who desire more control over their programs, you can manually associate each and every file type that your computer can recognize with a specific program:

  • Go to Start.
  • Select Default Programs.
  • Select Associate a file type or protocol with a program.
  • Select the file type/protocol that you want to edit.
  • Click on Change Program (at the top-right of the window).
  • Select the program you want associated with it:
    • o Select a program from the list.
    • o Click Other Programs for more choices.
      • o Click Browse if the program you want is not in the list and navigate to the .exe file of the preferred program, then click Open.
      • Click OK.

Associating unknown file types

If you come across a file type that isn’t recognized by windows (or a file type that hasn’t yet been assigned to a default program) you can associate it to any program, provided it is capable of reading it:

  • Right-click on the unrecognized file and select Open.
  • If the file has an extension (e.g. *.xzy), a Window will appear asking you what you want to do.
  • Click on the radio button beside Select a program from a list of installed programs and click OK.
  • If your file does not have an extension, you will be directed to the Open with window immediately.
  • From this window you can either select a program from the available list or you can select Browse to specify a different program.
  • If you want this file to be run in this program by default, click on the check box beside Always use the selected program to open this kind of file.
  • If this is a temporary case, uncheck that box.

The last procedure can be used as a shortcut for files that you recognize, but would like to run in another program. In this case, selecting Open with will bring up a list of programs. Selecting Choose Default Program will direct you to the Open with window. Selecting a program this way will associate the chosen file type with the specified program.

This guide should help users personalize the behavior of files and programs on their computers and also troubleshoot problems related to unrecognized/unknown file types.