File associations are a vital part of a functioning Windows experience, so making sure that the right file types automatically open with the right software is a must. But what if you assign the wrong file association or just want to change it to a better program? Windows 10 has proven more restrictive than past versions in terms of file associations and can be particularly fiddly if you just want to remove an association altogether.
Luckily, we have the answers, showing you how to change, reset and replace file associations in Windows 10.
How to Set and Change File Associations
First up, the easy stuff. You’ve probably been asked a thousand times by Windows when opening a file whether you want to associate it with a certain program. Maybe you just pick one of the suggested programs, and that’s the end of that.
But Windows’ suggested programs aren’t always the right ones, so how do you pick exactly what you want?
There are two ways to do it:
First, you can right-click a file whose association you want to change, then select “Open With.” If the program you want to open it with isn’t there, click “Choose another app” at the bottom of the window.
In the new box you’ll see much the same list as before, but scroll down and click “More apps” for an extended list to appear. Select the app you want to associate the file with and tick “Always use this app to open .xxx files.”
If the app you want doesn’t appear in the list, don’t bother with the option “Look for another app on this PC.” That will only open the file with your chosen program on a one-off basis.
To properly manage your file associations, click the Start button, type “default app settings” and click on it in the search results. Here you’ll see an overview of the default file associations. Click any of programs in the list to see your other options for that function.
To see a more comprehensive list of file associations, scroll down and click “Choose default applications by file type.” This will show you a full list of all the file types available and the apps they’re associated with.
You can click any of these, but in many cases you’ll find that there are no options available. This happens with more obscure file types, such as various esoteric image formats that only open with image-editing software like Photoshop. If you have the right program, but it’s not appearing as an option in the associations list, you can force the association using the command prompt (see next heading).
If you want, from the main “Default apps” screen you can click “Reset” to reset the file associations to Microsoft’s recommended defaults. (Warning: Microsoft will of course point you back to using their own software.)
How to Reset or Delete a File Association in Command Prompt
Resetting a file association to nothing is a little more intricate, and you’ll need to do it through an elevated command prompt.
Click Start, type
cmd, right-click Command Prompt, then “Run as administrator.”
into the command prompt (where “filename” is the name of the app you want to dissociate, and “ext” is the extension, such as .jpg, bin, .mp3 or whatever).
If you’re unsure of the filename, just enter “assoc” into the command prompt to see a list of all the file type associations. The bit you want to enter after “ftype” is the entire part after the = symbol.
For the sake of the example, we decided to dissociate the “wtv” extension from VLC, so the command we typed was
Once you’ve entered the command, the file type should be dissociated/empty, and you can set a new one when you try to open that file type next time.
Or, if you want to use the command prompt to associate or reassociate files with apps, just follow the below format, replacing the “wtv” and directory with the extension and directory of the program you want to associate it with:
That should tell you everything you need to know about file associations and give you control over which programs go with which extensions. While the command prompt method may be a bit more tricky, it’s less restricted than the “Default apps” window, so if the program you want doesn’t turn up there, you can force the association through the trusty command prompt.