Changing Default File Associations in Windows 10 and 11 | Windows OS Hub (2023)

In this article, we’ll look at how to manage the default File Type Associations (FTA) on Windows 10/11 and Windows Server 2022/2019/2016. As an example, we will show how to assign a default program to open *.PDF files in Windows, export these settings into an XML configuration file, and deploy the resulting file with file association settings to other computers manually or using Group Policy (GPO).

The main difference between Windows 10/11 and previous Windows versions is that you can’t manage file association settings through the Registry or the “Open With” feature of the Group Policy Preferences. However, there is a new opportunity to export the current settings of file associations from the “reference” computer to an XML file and apply this file to other computers. You can also import a file associations file into a Windows image deployed on your computers (manually, via WDS or SCCM).


  • How to Change Default Program to Open a File Type on Windows 10 and 11?
  • How to Set File Assertions from the Command Prompt?
  • Export and Import Default App Associations on Windows to the XML file
  • Configure Default File Associations with Group Policy
  • Changing File Association via the Windows Registry
  • How to Reset All File Associations to Default in Windows 10 and 11?

How to Change Default Program to Open a File Type on Windows 10 and 11?

Let’s say you want to use Adobe Reader DC to open *.PDF files on your computer. This means you need to associate this file extension with the application. In this example, I’m using a reference computer with Windows 10 22H1 and Acrobat Reader DC installed.

Note that Windows 10 and 11 now have the Microsoft Edge browser installed by default as the default PDF viewer.

To manually create a mapping between a file extension and a program, go to the Settings -> Default Apps (or run the Settings URI command -> ms-settings:defaultapps) and click the Choose default apps by file type button.

Find the .PDF file type in the list of extensions. Then click on the icon of the program associated with this extension and change the default PDF viewer from Microsoft Edge to Acrobat Reader.

You can automatically assign a specific app with the file extension for which it is registered. To do this, select Set default by apps in the Default Apps section, find your program in the list and click the Manage button.

The next screen contains a list of file types supported by the application. Select the file extensions you want to open with Acrobat Reader.

How to Set File Assertions from the Command Prompt?

On Windows, you can use the assoc command line tool to configure file associations for applications. For example, to check the program that should be used to open PDF files, run the command:

assoc .pdf

In this example, you can see that the AcroExch.Document.DC file type is associated with the PDF file extension:


To understand which program the AcroExch.Document.DC file type is associated with:

ftype AcroExch.Document.DC

You can set the type for a specific file type with the command:

ASSOC .csv=txtfile

In this example, we have specified that all CSV files should be opened as plain text files (using notepad.exe by default).

You can create or change the association of a file extension with a program from the command prompt. For example, you want all files with the .tx1 extension to open with notepad++.exe. First, you need to associate the .tx1 extension with the new tx1file file type.

assoc .tx1=tx1file

Now let’s specify the program that should be used by default to open files with the tx1 extension.

ftype tx1file="%programfiles(x86)%\"Notepad++\notepad++.exe" "%1"

You can also use the third-party SetUserFTA tool to assign file associations in Windows. SetUserFTA is a command line utility for quickly setting up file associations (often used on Windows Server 2019/2022 RDS farms to configure file associations with apps).

You can list the current file associations and the ProgID set for them in Windows like this:

SetUserFTA get

To set an association for a specific file extension, use the command:

SetUserFTA.exe extension progid

For example, set Chrome as the default browser for HTML files:

SetUserFTA.http ChromeHTML
SetUserFTA.https ChromeHTML
SetUserFTA.htm ChromeHTML
SetUserFTA.html ChromeHTML

If the application doesn’t have a registered file class or Progid, you can specify its executable. For example:

SetUserFTA.txt applications\notepad++.exe

This is possible for apps registered in the registry key HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications.

Export and Import Default App Associations on Windows to the XML file

The current file association settings for programs configured under the current user can be exported to an .XML file using DISM:

Dism.exe /online /Export-DefaultAppAssociations:C:\PS\DefaultAssoc.xml

The command exports to an XML file all of your configured program associations. You can open the DefaultAssoc.xml file with any text editor, and see the full list of file associations exported. If you need to use only a part of associations from this list (in order not to override the existing user associations), you can manually edit the XML file. Leave only the lines with the file extensions you need. For example, we’ll leave the following lines for PDF and FDF extensions:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><DefaultAssociations><Association Identifier=".fdf" ProgId="AcroExch.FDFDoc" ApplicationName="Adobe Acrobat Reader DC" /><Association Identifier=".pdf" ProgId="AcroExch.Document.DC" ApplicationName="Adobe Acrobat Reader DC" /></DefaultAssociations>

The resulting XML file can be imported into a Windows on other computers using the DISM tool:

Dism.exe /Online /Import-DefaultAppAssociations:C:\PS\DefaultAssoc.xml

Important. These settings to map file extensions to apps will be applied only to new user profiles during at first logon. If you receive an App default reset notification error during the import, check the syntax of the XML file.

You can also import association settings to an offline Windows image in a WIM file (which you use to deploy Windows to new computers). First, you have to mount the image:

Dism /Mount-Image /ImageFile:C:\mnt\images\install.wim /MountDir:C:\mnt\offline

Then import the XML file:

Dism.exe /Image:C:\mnt\offline /Import-DefaultAppAssociations:\\Server1\Share\DefaultAssoc.xml

Tip. The current file association settings in an offline Windows image can be obtained using this command:

Dism.exe /Image:C:\mnt\offline /Get-DefaultAppAssociations

Configure Default File Associations with Group Policy

In modern versions of Windows, you can use a Group Policy (GPO) option that allows you to apply an XML file with file association settings to all current users of a computer.

For example, you want to apply a group policy with file association settings to all computers in a specific OU (Organizational Unit) of Active Directory.

  1. Open the Group Policy Management console (gpmc.msc );
  2. Find the OU with computers for which you want to apply file associations and create a new GPO;
  3. Switch to GPO editing mode and go to the section Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> File Explorer;
  4. Find the option Set a default associations configuration file;
  5. Enable the policy and specify the UNC path to your XML file (make sure the path doesn’t contain quotes or spaces) It can be located on a shared network folder, SYSVOL directory on the domain controller, or pre-copied to the computers using GPP or SCCM;
  6. Restart your computer to apply the new file associations.

    You can use the gpresult.exe tool to troubleshoot GPO problems.

The new file association settings will be applied to all users of the computer the next time they sign in.

The path to the XML file with the new file association settings is contained in the DefaultAssociationsConfiguration registry parameter under the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\System.

Since Windows 10 tracks changes in the file association settings, the first time you try to open a PDF file, a window may appear confirming the use of Acrobat Reader to open this file type (the prompt appears only once). Such a request will always appear after installing a new application that is registered to open an existing file type or protocol. You can hide these notifications by enabling the policy “Do not show the ‘new application installed’ notification” under the same GPO section.

When working in Windows, a user can reassign these file associations. However, the next time the Group Policy settings are updated at the next logon, the user’s file associations will be overwritten with the settings from the XML file.

Changing File Association via the Windows Registry

As we said above, in Windows 10 /11the way to set file association options has changed. In the previous section, we showed you how to configure the association for the .pdf file type with an Acrobat Reader through an XML file and Group Policy. Now let’s see how it looks in the Windows registry.

Run the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and go to the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Explorer\FileExts\.pdf\UserChoice. This registry key contains the association settings for the PDF file extension.

Please note the following registry parameters:

  • ProgId – this is the identifier of the registered app to open this file type. This app ID is specified in the XML file. If a long identifier is specified instead of the application name, then the file association with the modern UWP (Metro-style) application is configured. Make sure this UWP app has not been removed from the Windows image;
  • Hash – a hash value that is automatically generated to validate the file association with the program. The presence of this hash ensures that the user or administrator (via the GPO) has configured this file mapping. This security mechanism is needed to protect users from malware that can change file associations without the user’s approval.

If you try to manually change the ProgId registry value and assign another program, the Hash value will no longer be valid. In this case, Windows will automatically reset the file association settings to the default state and the user will see a notification:

An app default was reset.An app caused a problem with the default app setting for .html files, so it was reset to Microsoft Edge.

Accordingly, in Windows 10/11 and Windows Server 2022/2019/2016 you won’t be able to configure file associations through the registry, as it worked in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008R2.

There is a third-party SetUserFTA.exe tool (mentioned earlier) that allows you to calculate the hash and assign a file extension to a program directly through the registry.

How to Reset All File Associations to Default in Windows 10 and 11?

You can reset the previously imported file association settings using the command:

Dism.exe /Online /Remove-DefaultAppAssociations

After running this command, all new users will be logged in with the default file association settings (the reset has no effect on the existing user profiles).

In order to reset the file associations configured manually by the user to the default ones, you need to click on the Reset button in Settings -> Apps -> Default Applications.

This will revert all file associations to a clean Windows 10 state.


How do I change the default file associations in Windows 10? ›

Change the file association for an email attachment
  1. In Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10, choose Start and then type Control Panel.
  2. Choose Programs > Make a file type always open in a specific program. ...
  3. In the Set Associations tool, select the file type you want to change the program for, then choose Change program.

How to restore default file extension type associations in Windows 11? ›

Part 1: Reset Corrupted File Type Associations

Press Windows + I on the keyboard to open the Settings app. Select Apps in the left navigation pane, and then click “Default apps” on the right. You'll see a list of default apps. Scroll down to the bottom and click the Reset button.

How do I create a default associations configuration file? ›

Open your Group Policy editor and go to the Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\File Explorer\Set a default associations configuration file setting. Turning this setting on also requires you to create and store a default associations configuration file, locally or on a network share.

How do I change the file association in Windows 10 registry? ›

Press Start, type cmd and it'll find Command Prompt. Right click the entry and click Run as administrator. Type assoc, press Enter, and it'll bring up all file types and their associations. Replace ext with the file type.

How do I fix Windows file associations? ›

Fix-1 Reset all files to Microsoft defaults
  1. Press Windows key and type “Settings” and hit Enter.
  2. Then click on “Apps” of the Windows Settings window.
  3. Now, on the left pane click on “Default apps“.
  4. Then, on the right pane select “Reset” under “Reset to the Microsoft recommended defaults” option.
  5. Restart your computer.
Aug 17, 2019

Does resetting Windows 11 remove files from other drives? ›

This reset option will reinstall Windows operating system and keeps your personal files, such as photos, music, videos or personal files. However, it will remove apps and drivers you installed, and also removes the changes you made to the settings.

Why are all my files gone Windows 11? ›

Select Start > Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings . If you see a message at the top that states You are logged on with a temporary profile. Roaming options are currently unavailable, restart your PC and sign in again. This should remove the temporary account and your files should be available again.

How do I restore the Windows 10 context menu in Windows 11? ›

Right-click the newly created key, select the New menu and select the Key option. Name the key InprocServer32 and press Enter. Double-click the newly created key and set its value to blank to enable the classic context menu on Windows 11.

Where are default file associations stored? ›

Similarly, you can identify the application that is associated with a given file by right-clicking the file in Windows Explorer and then clicking Properties. File associations are stored in both HKLM\SOFTWARE\Classes and HKCU\SOFTWARE\Classes; you can see a merged view of the data under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT.

How do I change file associations in registry? ›

You can force this using the registry:
  1. Start the registry editor (regedit.exe)
  3. From the Edit menu select New - Key.
  4. Enter a name of '.' ...
  5. Select the new '.' ...
  6. Double click the (Default) value.
  7. Change to the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT used to open, e.g. NOTEPAD for the notepad.exe application. ...
  8. Click OK.

How to create association in default programs Control Panel in windows 11? ›

Creating the custom app associations in Windows 11
  1. On a Windows 11 device, open Settings > Apps > Default apps and configure the required app associations.
  2. Open Windows Terminal and run dism /online /export-defaultappassociations:defappass.xml to export the XML-file with the configured app associations.
Nov 1, 2021

How do I remove the wrong file association in Windows 10? ›

Option 1: Via Windows Settings

Step 1: Press Windows + I to open Windows Settings. Step 2: Choose Apps category and click Default apps section in the left pane. Step 3: In the right pane, click the Reset button to reset to the Microsoft recommended defaults.

How do I change file association back to unknown app? ›

Change file association back to unknown program in Windows 10
  1. Create a new file with any extension and save it on any location.
  2. Next Open Control Panel (icons view), click/tap on the default programs icon.
  3. Click/tap on the Associate a file type or protocol with a program link.
Jan 8, 2016

How do I fix an EXE file association in Windows 10? ›

Fix Broken . EXE file association in Windows 10/8/7
  1. Unzip the file and extract the . REG file to Desktop. ...
  2. Right-click the REG file and choose Merge. Alternately, you can open the Registry Editor and then using the Import option from the File menu, to merge the REG file contents.

How do I reset file manager settings? ›

Click on the Options button.
  1. Click on the View tab.
  2. Click the Reset Folders button.
May 17, 2022

How do I reset file properties? ›

In Solution Explorer, right-click the file whose properties you want to modify. Click Properties and select one of the available tabbed property pages - for example, COBOL. Click Use Project Defaults to revert all properties to the values set at project level. Click Apply, and then click OK.

How do I change EXE file associations? ›

Changing one file type
  1. Step 1: Right-click on a file of the type you wish to change the association for.
  2. Step 2: Select Open With from the resulting menu.
  3. Step 3: Windows will then offer you an app or a list of apps that can act as the default for that file type.
Dec 17, 2021

Why do my PDF file associations get reset every time I restart? ›

This means that Windows 10 detects the settings as corrupted and throws them away, causing the handler to fall back to the system default.

How do I stop Windows from blocking a file? ›

Navigate to the Attachment Manager: User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Attachment Manager. In the right pane of the Attachment Manager, double-click on the Do not preserve zone information in file attachments policy to edit the Zone Information settings.

Will Windows 11 get rid of all my files? ›

Most people are wondering about this issue - will upgrading Windows 10 to Windows 11 erase all my files? The answer is No. As long as you select "Keep personal files and apps" during Windows Setup, you shouldn't lose anything.

Does Windows 11 save all your files? ›

By default, your files and data will transfer to your new PC. We recommend you back up your files before you install Windows 11. To learn how, see Back up your Documents, Pictures, and Desktop folders with OneDrive.

Do you have to reinstall everything with Windows 11? ›

Files, accounts, settings, and installed applications will be kept. It is recommended to have a backup of your files even if the computer is working normally. However, I have not had any data loss cases when upgrading a computer to Windows 11. I hope this helps.

Is Windows 11 better than Windows 10? ›

Windows 11 is worth the update for most people. It comes with a wide range of new features, performance improvements, and design changes. As the latest Windows OS, it usually gets more attention than Windows 10, too. There's not too much risk in upgrading to Windows 11, either.

Will Windows 10 files work on Windows 11? ›

You can simply connect your external hard drive to your Windows 10 PC and copy all the files that you want to transfer to Windows 11. Once that is done, you can connect the external hard drive to your Windows 11. Then, copy the content from the external hard drive onto your new Windows 11 PC.

What Windows 10 features are missing in Windows 11? ›

Support for showing windows labels on taskbar. Task Manager can no longer be opened by right-clicking taskbar (reinstated in September 2022 insider builds) "Time" is not displayed in the calendar when clicking on the "Date/Time" on taskbar. Scheduled events are not displayed in the calendar when opened.

What Windows 10 features are gone in Windows 11? ›

Microsoft has removed Live Tiles and named groups and folders in Windows 11. You can also not resize Start Menu on Windows 11. Named groups and folders of apps are no longer supported and the layout is not currently resizable. Pinned apps and sites will not migrate when upgrading from Windows 10.

How do you go back to Windows 10 from Windows 11 if go back option is not available? ›

Quick Workarounds to Windows 11 “Go Back” Not Working Issue
  1. Method 1: Downgrade from Windows 11 to Windows 10 with Uninstall latest feature update.
  2. Method 2: Go back to Windows 10 from Windows 11 after 10 Days via Clean Install.
  3. Create Windows 10 system image before upgrading to Windows 11.
  4. Revert Windows 11 to Windows 10.
Nov 2, 2022

Can you change registry settings? ›

To make changes to the registry and export your changes to a . reg file, follow these steps: Click Start, click Run, type regedit in the Open box, and then click OK. Locate and then click the subkey that holds the registry item or items that you want to change.

Can you mass change file extensions? ›

To change a whole batch of files at once: Select each of the files. You can select a group of contiguous files by click the first one and then Shift+clicking the last one; you can select any number of files by Ctrl+clicking each file; or to select all files in a folder, press Ctrl+A. Press F2.

How do I change default settings in Windows 11? ›

The "Reset this PC" feature allows you to reinstall Windows 11 with multiple options to start from scratch with a clean copy.
To reset a Windows 11 laptop or desktop to its factory default settings without losing your files, use these steps:
  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Recovery page on the right side.
Aug 1, 2022

How do I change the default program to open files? ›

  1. Open your phone's Settings app.
  2. Tap Apps. Default apps.
  3. Tap the default that you want to change.
  4. Tap the app that you want to use by default.

How do I set the default function keys in Windows 11? ›

2. How to Modify the Function Keys Settings in the BIOS
  1. First, turn off your PC.
  2. Now restart the device and repeatedly press the F10 key. ...
  3. Navigate to System Configuration menu > Action Keys Mode.
  4. Use the Enter key to enable or disable the features.
  5. Click Exit to save the changes.
Aug 27, 2022

Can I remove file association helper? ›

Solution 1: Use Control Panel or Settings to Uninstall It

Open Control Panel and select Programs and Features. Locate File Association Helper, right-click it, and select Uninstall.

How do I revert a file back to its original format? ›

Windows 11
  1. Press Windows Key + E on your keyboard and navigate to the location of the file or file you want to restore.
  2. Right-click the file or folder, then click Show more options.
  3. Click Restore previous versions.
  4. Select the version you want to restore, then click Restore.
Jan 12, 2023

How do I fix unknown sources? ›

Unknown sources in Android
  1. Navigate to Setting > Security.
  2. Check the option “Unknown sources“.
  3. Tap OK on the prompt message.
  4. Select “Trust“.

How do I repair a corrupted exe file? ›

Method #1: Fix corrupted file on Windows using DISM Scan
  1. Step 1: Firstly, press Windows + R keys simultaneously. ...
  2. Step 2: In this box, type cmd. ...
  3. Step 3: Now, copy and paste the DISM command – DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth. ...
  4. Step 4: The repair tool will start doing its work.
Jun 1, 2022

How do I change the default file open settings? ›

Open your phone's Settings app. Default apps. Tap the default that you want to change. Tap the app that you want to use by default.

How do I change the default view for all files and folders? ›

Change display for a folder and all subfolders
  1. Click View in the menu at the top of the File Explorer window. ...
  2. In the View menu, select Folder Options.
  3. In the Folder Options window, click the View tab.
  4. Click the Apply to Folders button to apply the display settings of the current folder to all subfolders.
Dec 5, 2021

How do I change the default app to open files? ›

To change default apps in Android, go to Settings > Apps > Default apps and pick which category you want to set a default app for. Then select the app you want to use for this category.

How do I change a file that opens with default? ›

Use the Open With command.

In File Explorer, right-click on a file whose default program you want to change. Select Open With > Choose Another App. Check the box that says “Always use this app to open . [file extension] files.” If the program you want to use is displayed, select it and click OK.

What is the default file mode is? ›

Answer: A file mode governs the type of operations possible once a file is opened. The default file mode is 'r' ie., read.

What does it mean to set as a default? ›

Set as default is to make the first choice that will occur without any input. For example, an operating system may have several different web browsers. One may install a different web browser than the one that came with the operating system. Then, set as default makes this add-on browser the first to run.

How do I get the same view to all folders in Windows 11? ›

To change the view of a folder in Windows 11, open the folder within the File Explorer window. Then click the “View” drop-down button in the Ribbon at the top of the File Explorer window. Then click the name of the view to apply from the choices shown in the section at the top of the drop-down menu.

What happens if you clear defaults? ›

After the defaults are cleared, the page refreshes and displays a No defaults set message, and the CLEAR DEFAULTS option is grayed out. The default actions that you set for that app are cleared, and you can assign another app as the default app for that action.

What is the meaning of default app? ›

A default app is the one you'd like your operating system to use to open certain files or links. Understandably, out of the box, Android defaults to Google applications. For instance, the default web browser for Android is Chrome.

How do I remove the default app to open files in Windows 10? ›

Remove default app by file type
  1. Open Settings.
  2. Navigate to Apps > Defaults Apps.
  3. Go to the bottom of the page and click the Reset button under Reset to the Microsoft recommended defaults.
  4. This will reset all file type and protocol associations to the Microsoft recommended defaults.
Apr 18, 2020

How do I change the default program to open a file without an extension Windows 10? ›

You can force this using the registry:
  1. Start the registry editor (regedit.exe)
  3. From the Edit menu select New - Key.
  4. Enter a name of '.' ...
  5. Select the new '.' ...
  6. Double click the (Default) value.
  7. Change to the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT used to open, e.g. NOTEPAD for the notepad.exe application. ...
  8. Click OK.

What program opens files by default? ›

Answer: TXT file in Windows and it automatically opens in Notepad, then Notepad is the default program for files with a ".

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