About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

July 24, 2012

Become a Member of the File Association

Melanie emailed me recently and said that something had broken on her computer.  In the past when she opened a photograph in her computer it opened in Windows Photo Viewer. Suddenly it started opening in Microsoft Internet Explorer.  What is up with that?

Melanie has a file association problem.  When something on your computer changes quickly from what it used to do to something else you probably installed a new program on your computer.  When you installed that new application it "hijacked" one or many file associations.  This can be fine or it could be something you don’t like which is what happened to Melanie.

All files have a file "extension."  In the olden days if you saw a file you also saw its association, which was the three characters after the file name.  Some examples would be filename.doc, filename.gif, filename.jpg, etc.  In these examples the ".doc" extension is what is used to identify a Microsoft Word file.  When you double clicked a file ending in .doc it would automatically open in Word.  It is "associated" with that program through the extension.  The other two are graphic files and if double clicked will open in whatever program is associated on your computer.

Apparently in my reader’s case she installed a program which changed the file association of graphic files, most likely the two I listed .gif and .jpg.  She can fix that by telling her computer to re-associate those types of files with Windows Picture Viewer and not MSIE.

Unfortunately, this happens to people often.  Fortunately it is usually very easy to fix.

To correct the problem of incorrect associations, start by finding the file that was giving you the problem.  You also must know what program you want to use to open the file and possibly where its executable file is located.  With graphic files it is easier. 

Open with...Right click on the file before you open it and choose "Open with…"  If the open with command is not there, click off of the file, hold down the SHIFT key and right click again. "Open with" should be there this time.

When you hover over the "Open with" link you should see a list of suggested program associations you can make.  If you want it to open with one of the listed programs just this once, click it.  If you want it to open all files with the same extension every time from now on click, "Choose default program…"

A menu will pop up with programs to choose from.  When Melanie did she saw "Windows Photo Viewer" as a suggestion and clicked it. She then clicked on the check box at the bottom of this new window that says, "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file."  Do not forget that last step for permanence; however, another program could change it again at another time.

Oh no!  You did all of this and the program you want associated with that extension is not listed. Now what do you do?  Click the "Browse" button and go to the program.  Be forewarned: you must know where the programs .exe file is located.  For instance, if your music files open on the wrong music player and you want them to open in iTunes, you would need to browse to, "C:\Program Files\iTunes\iTunes.exe" and select it there.

Have fun fixing associations.

1 Comment »

  1. This was a great article! As always, thank you for the useful info! 🙂

    Comment by fernatt99 — August 23, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

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