How to Create File Associations

Every file on your hard drive (.jpeg, .html, and the like) can be associated with a compatible program, which will open that file format by default. Some applications will change a format’s default association without your permission during installation. Not only is it annoying to have the wrong program launch when you open a file, but it can also put a real damper on your productivity. Changing the association so that the correct program opens, however, is a simple task that takes less than 5 minutes.

Step by Step

Step 1: Choose the application that you want to be the default. You can associate multiple programs with a specific file format, but Windows will use only the first program in the list to open the file automatically--that application is known as the default program.

If the default program is uninstalled, the second associated program will open the file instead. If a secondary association isn’t available and the default program is uninstalled, when you click the file a generic prompt will ask you to associate an application from a list of programs installed on your computer.

Step 2: Create group file associations. If you want a specific program, such as a certain Web browser, to handle all activity relating to that program, such as Web browsing, you can set it as the default application with the Default Programs feature. To create a default program association, click Start and type Default Programs into the search field, and then press Enter.

Click Set Your Default Programs. Choose an application from the list of apps, and then select Set this program as default.

Set your default programs in Windows

Step 3: Create specific file associations. Let's say that although you’re fine with Firefox as the default browser for all of your Web activity, you want specific graphics programs to take care of specific image formats--Photoshop for JPEGs and Paint for BMPs, for example.

To associate a specific file format to a specific program, right-click on a file of the type in question and choose Open With, and then select Choose default program. You'll see a dialog box that lists all the applications installed on the computer that can open that particular file format. Choose the application you want to associate with the file, and then click OK.

Open With in Windows

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Related:
Shop Tech Products at Amazon