Setting a Default Program to Open a File


I received a call today from someone who was having problems opening a pdf file. Whenever she clicked on it, it would open in WordPad, even though she had Adobe Reader installed. She said she could could right-click on it and choose Adobe Reader from the list and it would open but when she double-clicked on it, it would still open in WordPad.

I knew right away what had happened, and it’s very easy to fix. What happened was that she received a pdf file but hadn’t yet downloaded and installed Reader. When she tried to open the pdf, the computer couldn’t associate it with the correct program so it prompted her to choose a program. WordPad was suggested so she took it. That automatically associated the opening of pdf files with WordPad. It didn’t matter that she later installed Reader.

This file association also occurs when installing some programs, especially media programs. If you choose the default installation, many times that program will associate all media files to open it that program, even if you don’t want it to. I always choose the Custom Installation option so I have more control over what gets installed and where.

Anyhow, back to the situation at hand…How to change the association so that her pdf’s open with Reader. There’s a long, involved, confusing way to do it, and then there’s a much quicker and easier way. I’ll cover the quicker and easier way.

I had her right-click on a pdf file she had on her computer and had her left-click on “Open With”.  This brought up a list of programs that she could choose to try to open the file with. I had her click on “Choose Program” or “Choose Default Program” depending on your Windows version. Under Recommended Programs, Adobe Reader was listed so I had her select that and then check the box at the bottom next to Always use the selected program to open this kind of file. If the Program you need isn’t listed under Recommended Programs, you may find it under Other Programs or you may have to Browse for it, but always check the box at the bottom when you find the correct program.

That tells Windows what program to associate that type of file with. Now, when she double-clicks a pdf file from her computer, or opens a pdf attachment from e-mail, it always opens in Adobe Reader.

This will work with any file type you need to associate, or re-associate with a program.

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One Response

  1. Excellent piece of advice. 🙂 I always prefer the easy and simple way. 🙂 It’s been a long time since I had to change a file association and had completely forgotten about this. Thanks for the great reminder.

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