Windows cannot open this file

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 10, 2007
Updated • Oct 14, 2015
Windows, Windows tips

The message "Windows cannot open this file" is always displayed when a user tries to execute a file with a file extension unknown to Windows (meaning that it is not associated with any program installed on the system).

Windows is giving you the option to search the Internet for clues on how to handle that file then or pick a software from the list of installed applications of this computer.

I never - and I really mean never - experienced a successful search when using the Internet search.It is completely useless in my opinion and I made the decision to never use it again a long time ago.

I decided to get rid of it completely and auto-select the option to pick a program from the list of installed applications instead whenever the message comes up.

Instead of relying on Microsoft's search that is clearly broken, I'd either try and use a program already installed on the system, or if that is not working, use a search on the Internet to find an appropriate program fro the file extensions.

The Registry needs to be edited to change this behavior. I'm sure some of you know a software that can do it but as always, I prefer to do things manually whenever possible as it provides me with reassurance that nothing else is changed on the system.

Press Windows-R, enter regedit in the Run window and hit enter. Please note that you may get an UAC prompt on newer versions of Windows.

Now navigate to the key:


Create a new Dword with the name InternetOpenWith. Close the Registry afterwards and test it by renaming a file extension to an unknown one. You will witness that the option to search the Internet will not be shown anymore for unknown file extensions. The Open With dialog window will be shown instead instantly.

Update: the message has been modified slightly in newer versions of Windows. It now reads Windows can't open this file. The following text is displayed underneath: To open this file, Windows needs to know what program created it. Windows can go online to look it up automatically, or you can manually select from a list of programs on your computer. The web search is unfortunately still unable to identify the majority of unknown file types which means that bypassing the dialog completely is still the best idea to go forward.

Windows cannot open this file
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Windows cannot open this file
Find out how to bypass Web Search whenever you try to open a file in Windows that has no program associated with it.

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  1. Steve said on August 11, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Copy the below into msSux.reg for win7x64 (and maybe all others…). Then, dble click to import. Then, enjoy the disappearance of “I wanna be known as an internet company”, stupid, useless, inane, pointless, idiotic, MS WishBox…

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


  2. asd said on October 22, 2010 at 1:30 am

    thanks man. this saves a lot of nerve cells ;)

  3. webrider said on May 5, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    oh my god! it works! at last the stupid dialog its gone! ive been looking for this for a long time! thank you! thank you! thank you! one less annoyance to have to worry about! thank you again! really useful!

  4. eusi said on April 3, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I found a solution. For Vista:

    DWORD Value
    Name: NoInternetOpenWith
    Value: 1

  5. eusi said on April 3, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Did someone have success with Windows Vista (Enterprise)? It does not work with my machine… Any other suggestions?
    Thank you very much.

  6. Cyndie said on February 21, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    this didnt work for me at all… i got “cant open file… ” whatever i typed on the list. It cant even open the “regedit” either.. my computer must have BIG issues I even tried this in safe mode… any other help please??

  7. Bart said on January 20, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Thanks for the tip, now I finally got rid of a very annoying feature.

  8. Vivek said on November 21, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Awesome !! Works like it should ..

  9. Thinker said on November 11, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    It would be much more usefull if u make a simple reg file to download :)
    Then I could use it next time I install Windows.

  10. archer said on November 11, 2007 at 3:49 am

    damn i’m stupid!

    left the r out of internet…

    works like a charm, martin.
    martin’s the man, people. please disregard my previous comments.

  11. Martin said on November 10, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    You can try to set it for all users instead: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE

    and create the Dword InternetOpenWith. Again the default value should be 0 for the newly created key. If it is set to another value change it to 0. Try rebooting the computer as well, maybe that helps ?

  12. Martin said on November 10, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Archer no everything is like it worked on my system. Did you create a Dword and name it InternetOpenWith ? The value is 0 by default as it should be.

  13. archer said on November 10, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    man, i really wanted this to work.

    did you possibly leave out something in the dword config, martin?

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