Changing Default File Associations in Windows 10 and 11 |

In this article, we will see how Manage Default File Type Associations (FTA) On Windows 10/11 and Windows Server 2022/2019/2016. As an example, we’ll show how to assign a default program to open *.pdf files in Windows, export these settings to an XML configuration file, and manually or group the resulting file with file association settings. Deploy to other computers using the policy (GPO). ,

The main difference between Windows 10/11 and previous Windows versions is that you cannot manage file association settings. registry either “open withAttribute “Group Policy Preferences. However, there is a new opportunity to export the current settings of file associations from the “context” computer to an XML file and apply this file to other computers. You can (manually, You can also import file association files into a Windows image) via WDS or SCCM.

How to Change the Default Program to Open File Types on Windows 10 and 11?

Let’s say you want to use Adobe Reader DC to open *.PDF files on your computer. This means that you need to associate this file extension with the application. In this example, I am using a reference computer that has Windows 10 22H1 and Acrobat Reader DC installed.

Note that Windows 10 and 11 now have Microsoft Edge browser installed as the default PDF viewer by default.

To manually create a mapping between a file extension and a program, go to Adjustment , default apps (or run settings URI command -> ms-settings:defaultapps) and click Choose default apps by file type switch.

set default apps on windows 10

find PDF File type in the list of extensions. Then click on the icon of the program associated with this extension and change the default PDF viewer from Microsoft Edge to Acrobat Reader.

Choose Default App for File Extensions in Windows 10 Settings

You can automatically assign a specific app with the file extension for which it is registered. To do this, select set default by apps In default apps section, find your program in the list and click manage switch.

set default app in windows

The next screen contains a list of file types supported by the application. Select the file extension you want to open with Acrobat Reader.

Configure file type protocol association in Windows

How to set up file assertions from command prompt?

On Windows, you can use Associate Command line tool for configuring file associations for applications. For example, to check the program that should be used to open PDF files, run the command:

assoc .pdf

In this example, you can see that the AcroExch.Document.DC file type is associated with the PDF file extension:


assoc command in windows

Show all extension associations with file types:


To understand what program the AcroExch.Document.DC file type is associated with:

ftype AcroExch.Document.DC

ftype command to set file to app association

You can set the type for a specific file type with the command:

ASSOC .csv=txtfile

In this example, we specified that all CSV files should be opened as plain text files (by default using notepad.exe).

You can create or change the association of a file extension with a program from the Command Prompt. For example, you want all the files .tx1 Extension to open with Notepad++.exe. First, you need to associate it .tx1 expand with new tx1 file File type.

assoc .tx1=tx1file

Now let’s specify the program that should be used to open files with the tx1 extension by default.

ftype tx1file="%programfiles(x86)%\"Notepad++\notepad++.exe" "%1"

You can also use third-party set userFTA Tool for assigning file associations in Windows. set userFTA Is a command line utility to quickly set up file associations (often used to configure file associations with apps on a Windows Server 2019/2022 RDS farm).

You can list the current file associations in Windows and the ProgID set for them like this:

SetUserFTA get

setusrfta tool to manage file associations

To set the association for a specific file extension, use the command:

SetUserFTA.exe extension progid

For example, set Chrome as the default browser for HTML files:

SetUserFTA .http ChromeHTML
SetUserFTA .https ChromeHTML
SetUserFTA .htm ChromeHTML
SetUserFTA .html ChromeHTML

If the application does not have a registered file class or progid, you can specify its executable. For example:

SetUserFTA .txt applications\notepad++.exe

Is it possible for apps registered in registry key HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications,

Export and import default app associations on Windows to XML file

The current file association settings for programs configured under the current user can be exported to an .xml file using DISM:

Dism.exe /online /Export-DefaultAppAssociations:C:\PS\DefaultAssoc.xml

The command exports all your configured program associations to an XML file. you can open DefaultAssoc.xml File with any text editor, and view the full list of exported file associations. If you only need to use a portion of the associations from this list (not to override existing user associations), you can manually edit the XML file. Leave only the lines containing the file extensions you need. For example, we’ll omit the following lines for the PDF and FDF extensions:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Association Identifier=".fdf" ProgId="AcroExch.FDFDoc" ApplicationName="Adobe Acrobat Reader DC" />
<Association Identifier=".pdf" ProgId="AcroExch.Document.DC" ApplicationName="Adobe Acrobat Reader DC" />

dism: export default app associations
The resulting XML file can be imported into Windows on other computers using the DISM tool:

Dism.exe /Online /Import-DefaultAppAssociations:C:\PS\DefaultAssoc.xml

important, These settings will only apply to new user profiles during the first logon to map file extensions to apps. if you get one app default reset notification Error during import, check the syntax of the XML file.

You can import association settings into an offline Windows image in a WIM file (the one you use to deploy Windows to new computers). First, you need to mount the image:

Dism /Mount-Image /ImageFile:C:\mnt\images\install.wim /MountDir:C:\mnt\offline

Then import the XML file:

Dism.exe /Image:C:\mnt\offline /Import-DefaultAppAssociations:\\Server1\Share\DefaultAssoc.xml

tip, The current file association settings in an offline Windows image can be obtained using this command:

Dism.exe /Image:C:\mnt\offline /Get-DefaultAppAssociations

Configure default file associations with Group Policy

In modern versions of Windows, you can use a Group Policy (GPO) option that allows you to apply an XML file with file association settings to all current users of the computer.

For example, you want to apply a Group Policy with file association settings to all computers in a specific OU (Organizational Unit) of Active Directory.

  1. Open Group Policy Management Console (gpmc.msc ,
  2. Find the OU with the computers for which you want to apply file association and create a new GPO;
  3. Switch to GPO edit mode and go to section Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> File Explorer;
  4. find option Set default association configuration file,
  5. Enable the policy and specify a UNC path for your XML file (make sure the path does not contain quotes or spaces) This can be located on a shared network folder, the SYSVOL directory on a domain controller, or on a computer using the former -Can be copied GPP or SCCM;gpo:apply default associations config xml file
  6. Restart your computer to apply the new file association.

The new file association settings will be applied to all users of the computer the next time they sign in.

The path to the XML file with the new file association settings is contained in DefaultAssociationConfiguration Registry parameters under the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\System.DefaultAssociationConfiguration registry parameter

Since Windows 10 tracks changes to file association settings, the first time you try to open a PDF file, a window may appear confirming that you use Acrobat Reader to open this file type ( The prompt appears only once). Such a request will always appear after installing a new application that is registered to open an existing file type or protocol. You can hide these notifications by enabling the policy.Don’t show ‘new application installed’ notification“Under the same GPO section.

When working in Windows, the user can reassign these file associations. However, the next time the Group Policy settings are updated at next logon, the user’s file associations will be overwritten with the XML file’s settings.

Changing File Associations Through the Windows Registry

As we said above, the way you set up file association options in Windows 10/11 has changed. In the previous section, we showed you how to configure association with an Acrobat Reader for an XML file and a .pdf file type via Group Policy. Now let’s see how it looks in the Windows Registry.

Run Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and navigate to Registry Key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Explorer\FileExts\.pdf\UserChoice, This registry key contains the association settings for the PDF file extension.

Please note the following registry parameters:

  • prog id – This is the identifier of the app registered to open this file type. This App ID is specified in the XML file. If a longer identifier is specified instead of the application name, file association with modern UWP (Metro-style) applications is configured. Make sure this UWP app is not removed from the Windows image;
  • hash – A hash value that is automatically generated to validate file associations with the program. The presence of this hash ensures that the user or administrator (via GPO) has configured this file mapping. This security mechanism is needed to protect users from malware that can change file associations without the user’s approval.

Registry: Files associations of the user's choice

If you try to change manually prog id Assign the registry value and another program, the hash value will no longer be valid. In this case, Windows will automatically reset the file association settings to the default state and the user will see a notification:

An app default was reset.
An app caused a problem with the default app setting for .html files, so it was reset to Microsoft Edge.

windows 10 notification: an app default was reset

Accordingly, in Windows 10/11 and Windows Server 2022/2019/2016 you will not be able to configure file association through the registry, as it works in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008R2.

is a third party SetUserFTA.exe Tools (mentioned earlier) that allow you to calculate hashes and assign file extensions to a program directly via the registry.

How to reset all file associations to default in Windows 10 and 11?

You can reset previously imported file association settings using the command:

Dism.exe /Online /Remove-DefaultAppAssociations

After running this command, all new users will be logged in with the default file association settings (the reset has no effect on existing user profiles).

To reset the file associations manually configured by the user to the default ones, you need to click on reset Button in Settings -> Apps -> Default apps.

Reset File Associations to Default on Windows 10

This will revert all file associations to a clean Windows 10 state.

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