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How to change the default program a file opens with in Windows XP

By on October 3, 2011 | Last Updated: December 13, 2012 | Read 62,240 times.
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Table of Contents

  1. How to change file associations by right-clicking on a file in Windows XP
  2. How to change file associations through the Set Associations Control Panel in Windows XP
  3. How to set the default programs for an unknown extension in Windows XP

When you double-click on a file in Windows XP, the operating system will automatically open the file using a program that has been is associated with the file's extension. It is possible, though, to change the default program that is opened when you click on a file. This tutorial will explain how to change the default program that is associated with an extension as well as assigning a program to an extension that Windows does not know about.

 

How to change file associations by right-clicking on a file in Windows XP

To change the default program a file type is opened with, search for the file you wish to change and right-click on it to bring up the file menu as shown below.

 

File menu

 

At the above menu, please select the Open with menu option. You will then be presented with a screen similar to the one below that shows the available programs that you can open the file with.

 

Open With dialog

 

To change the default program that this file is opened with, please click on the Choose Program... option. You will then be shown the Open with dialog as shown below.

 

Open With screen

 

In this screen you will see a section called Recommended Programs that contains known programs that can properly open and manipulate the file in question. This does not mean, though, that there are not other programs on your computer that can properly manipulate the file as well. To change the default program to one of these unlisted programs, simply click on the Browse... button.

You will now be presented with a window where you can browse to the executable that you wish to use to open these types of files. Once you have found the executable, select it by left-clicking on it once so it becomes highlighted and then click on the Open button. You will now be at the Open With window, but should see other programs listed under the Other Programs list and the program you browsed to will be selected and highlighted as shown in the image below.

 

New program selected

 

With the new program that you wish to use selected, make sure there is a check mark in the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file checkbox. Then press the OK button. The file should now have been opened using the program you selected and these types of programs will now automatically be opened by this program.

 

How to change file associations through the Folder Options Control Panel in Windows XP

This method will allow you to change the default program for a particular extension using the Folder Options control panel. This control panel contains a listing of all known file extensions and the default programs that are assigned to them.

First, click on the Windows XP Start button. This is the small rectangular button (Windows 7 Start Button) in the lower left corner of your screen that has a Windows flag on it. When the Start Menu opens, click on the Control Panel menu option as shown by the black arrow in the image below.

 

Start Menu Search

 

When the control panel opens you may see the Control Panel in Category view as shown in the image below.

 

Set Associations control panel

 

Please click on the Switch to Classic View option as designated by the black arrow above. This will change the display of the Control Panel to the classic view, which makes it easier to find the particular settings we would like to change.

 

Set Associations control panel

 

Click on the control icon labeled Folder Options as shown in the image above. This will open the Folder Options control panel. When the Folder Options screen is open, click on the File Types tab. You will now see a screen similar to the one below.

 

Set Associations control panel

 

Scroll through the list of file extensions till you find the extension that you wish to change the default program. When you find it, left-click on it once to select it and then click on the Change... button. In our example, we will be changing the .txt extension. You will then be shown the Open with dialog as shown below.

 

Choose program dialog

 

In this screen you will see a section called Recommended Programs that contains known programs that can properly open and manipulate the file in question. This does not mean that there are not other programs on your computer that can properly manipulate the file as well. To change the default program to one of these programs, simply click on the Browse... button.

You will now be presented with a window where you can browse to the executable that you wish to use to open these types of files. Once you have found the executable, select it by left-clicking on it once so it becomes highlighted and then click on the Open button. You will now be at the Open With window, but should see some new programs listed under the Other Programs list and the program you browsed to will be selected and highlighted as shown in the image below.

 

Choose program dialog

 

With the new program that you wish to use selected, make sure there is a check mark in the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file check box, and then press the OK button.

You will now be back at the Folder Options Control Panel, but with the new program associated with the .txt extension as shown in the image below.

 

Choose program dialog

 

Files that have the particular file extension that you changed will now automatically open with the new program when you double-click on them. You can now press the Close button to close the Control Panel.

 

How to set the default programs for an unknown extension in Windows XP

At times you may have files that have a file extension that is not know to Windows. Therefore, when you attempt to double-click on them to open them, Windows will not know what program to use and you will see a dialog box that states Windows can't open this file. This tutorial will explain how to assign a default program to this new file type so that it can be opened automatically with the program of your choice when you double-click on it.

To assign a program, simply double-click on the file that you wish to assign a program to. When you double-click on it, Windows will display a dialog box that states it can't open this file.

 

Choose program dialog

 

At this point you have two choices. If you do not know which program to use, you can select the Use the Web service to find the appropriate program option and click on the OK button. Windows will open up a web browser to a Microsoft web page that displays possible programs that you can download and install that will allow you to open these types of files.

On the other hand, if you know of a program that is already installed on your computer that can open these files you should click on the Select the program from a list and then click on the OK button. You will then be presented with the Open with screen as shown below.

 

Choose program dialog

 

In the above screen you should enter a description for this type of file in the Type a description that you want to use for this kind of file: field. When entering the description, try to offer information as to what program this file belongs to or contains. You should also see a list of programs that may be able to open the file. If the program you wish to use is listed, simply left-click on it once to select it. If it is not listed, then click on the Browse... button.

You will now be presented with a window where you can browse to the executable that you wish to use to open these types of files. Once you have found the executable, select it by left-clicking on it once so it becomes highlighted and then click on the Open button. You will now be at the Open With window, but should see other programs listed under the Other Programs list and the program you browsed to will be selected and highlighted as shown in the image below.

 

Choose program dialog

 

With the new program that you wish to use selected, make sure there is a check mark in the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file checkbox, and then press the OK button. The file should now have been opened using the program you selected and from now will be automatically be opened by this program as well.

 

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