How to Set Windows Photo Viewer as Default in Windows 10

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Windows Photo Viewer was a useful and simple tool in Windows 7, so it kind of boggles the mind that Microsoft decided to steadily phase it out over subsequent Windows versions in favour of the volatile “Photos” app.

These days Microsoft has made it hard to get the Photo Viewer back by removing its “exe” file altogether. With a little workaround, however, you can set it as your default photo viewing app again. Here’s how.

If you’re running Windows 10 after upgrading from Windows 7 or 8, then good news: you should still have registry entries for Windows Photo Viewer on your PC, and it shouldn’t be a problem to set Photo Viewer as the default.

One option is to find a JPEG, PNG, or whatever kind of image file you want to associate with Photo Viewer, right-click it, then click “Open with” and select “Windows Photo Viewer.”

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If it’s not there, click “Choose another app” from the “Open with” menu, then scroll down, click “More apps,” scroll down to the bottom again, click “Look for another app on this PC,” then navigate to “C:\Program Files\Windows Photo Viewer” and select the Windows Photo Viewer executable.

If you can’t find the executable, then it means that your Windows version never had it in the first place or that Microsoft removed it in an update.

Photo Viewer is still there on your PC, but only as a “dll” file, and not an executable. To get it back we’ll need to create a new registry file.

Thankfully, Tenforums user Edwin did much of the legwork here, creating the necessary code to restore Photo Viewer in the Windows context menu.

Click below to see the code, then copy and paste it into a blank Notepad file.

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Next, click “File -> Save as” and save it as a “.reg” file, similarly to how we did in the picture below.

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Once saved, navigate to the new reg file in Windows Explorer, right-click it, and finally click “Merge.”

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The file should register successfully. Now when you right-click an image file and select “Open with” and “Choose another app,” you’ll see that Windows Photo Viewer is once again there as an option (possibly after clicking “More apps”). Select it, then tick the “Always use this app to open files” box.

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The fact that Windows Photo Viewer is such a faff to get working again on Windows 10 is a grim sign of Microsoft’s rather pushy policy in moving Windows users onto exactly the apps they want you to use. So think of this return to Photo Viewer as a little act of defiance against Microsoft! If enough people do it, maybe they’ll take note and reinstate Photo Viewer where it belongs.

Image credit: Frames

10 comments

  1. Many thanks your solution, worked like a dream!
    Windows Photo Viewer now back where it belongs indeed.
    I just love the ability to zoom in on the image with the scroll wheel.
    The scroll wheel on the new W10 app produces the next image!

  2. This appear to work on a per-user basis. I have a computer with 11 users and only one of them has admin privileges. Do you know of a way to do this for all users from a single admin account? If so, this would be even more awesome than it already is.
    Thanks!
    UM

    • To do this for 11 users you will need to load the default profile and add the modification like so. First create a bat file with the following code:

      reg load HKLMDEFAULT c:usersdefaultntuser.dat
      reg import %~dp0restorephotoviewer.reg
      reg unload HKLMDEFAULT

      The “restorephotoviewer.reg” (with no spaces must be in the same location(folder) as the bat file created from the script above.
      Run the bat file under the adminstrator account. This way it will affect all NEWLY logged on users

  3. Thanks for the solution..
    Been looking for it few months and come to yours today.. It works like magic.. Thanks again

  4. Did not get a permanent result with this …..
    Carefully went through the above instructions, a photo was selected and Windows Photo Viewer duly opened the file.
    However, when the photo was closed and reopened (or any other photo opened), they were opened with the Windows default program.
    The exercise was repeated on another computer – with the same result.
    I’m running Win10 Version 1803, build 17134 on both machines.
    I have installed IrfanView in the meantime, but like everyone else here prefer Window Photo Viewer.
    Any additional help would be appreciated.

  5. This doesn’t work for me either and I had the same result as Alan. You choose open with Windows Photo Viewer, you tick to use that every time. But the very next time, it forgets / ignores you.

    If I try and manually set the default program to open images in Settings / Default Apps I can’t do that either because Windows Photo Viewer simply doesn’t appear there. The only choices are Photos, Paint, Paint 3D or Choose another app in the store. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

    The built-in photo viewer is pitiful, it often closes on its own for no reason, and if I zoom into an image it sometimes decides to zoom back out.

    To think all the stuff they ‘fixed’ in Windows 10 which was never broken to begin with.

  6. i have the same result!, select the Windows photo Viewer (or the Windows office picture manager Too) and the next time, windows ignores you!

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