How to make any program the default on Windows 10
When Windows 10 users want to change default apps on their system, they will likely stumble upon the "default apps" options menu in the operating system's Settings application.
There you find a list of core types of applications, email, maps, music player, photo viewer, video player and web browser, and options to map individual apps or programs so that they take over the role on the device.
Microsoft maps default programs to these by default, Microsoft Edge as the default browser for instance. It has happened in the past that updates reset some or even all file and protocol associations on the operating system.
Changing default apps
Do the following to manage default apps in the Settings application:
- Use the keyboard shortcut Windows-I to open Settings on the Windows 10 PC.
- Go to Apps > Default Apps.
- Click on a default application to change it. This opens a selection menu to select another program or use the Store to find an application to use.
One issue that Windows 10 users may run into when they try to change default apps is that programs may not be listed in the selection menu.
Microsoft displays installed apps and programs in the menu when you click on one of the default apps or programs to change it, and displays a link to find suitable apps in Windows Store.
What it does not do, however, is display options to pick a program manually which means that you cannot set portable programs as the default application in Windows 10 using the menu. Any program that is not recognized by Windows as installed or associated with the file type cannot be selected using the Apps menu.
Resolving the issue
While you cannot make portable apps or other programs not listed by Windows the default application using this configuration screen, you can use another way to make the necessary modifications to the operating system.
The Settings menu won't help you there, however, as all options that it provides limit the selection to installed programs or apps, and Windows Store.
Microsoft wants you to use the Settings application to assign file types to programs. The company removed the option to use the Control Panel to associated file types with programs in Windows 10 version 1803.
Problem is: the company did not improve the Settings application in this regard. It still does not feature a "browse" option to pick a program manually from the system.
We suggest you use Nirsoft's free FileTypesMan program to regain full control over the functionality. Check out our review of FileTypesMan here for additional information.
FileTypesMan lists all known file types in the interface on load and its associations. To change the association simply select it and press F4 to open the change prompt to select a different program.
Information below is valid for Windows 10 version 1709 or earlier
The classic Control Panel, for as long as it is still part of Windows, offers a solution.
Update: Microsoft changed the Control Panel options in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update so that they redirect to the Settings application instead. The Settings application, however, lists installed programs or Windows Store apps only. There is no option to set a program not suggested by Windows as the default handler for a specific protocol or file type.
You may open the classic management screens in the following way. Note that it is likely that Microsoft will remove these eventually:
- Tap on the Windows-key, type cmd.exe and select the result to open the Command Prompt.
- TypeÂ control /name Microsoft.DefaultPrograms /page pageDefaultProgram to open the "Set your default programs" Control Panel window.
- TypeÂ control /name Microsoft.DefaultPrograms /page pageFileAssoc to open the "associate a file type or protocol with a program" Control Panel window.
Use Windows-Pause to open the Control Panel. If you don't have a Pause-key, tap on Windows, type Control Panel and hit enter.
Select "Control Panel Home", and on the next screen "Default Programs".
Select "Associate a file type or protocol with a program" on the screen that opens.
This loads all known file types and protocols in a long list. Each extension or protocol is listed with its file extension or protocol, a description, and the current program associated with it.
There is no easy way to do this, which means that you have to locate all file extensions or protocols that you want to map to a program manually in the listing.
This can take quite some time depending on the program. A media player can be associated with dozens of file types for instance.
To change the association of an extension or protocol double-click on its line in the listing.
Note: If you get "Windows can't open this type of file", select "try an app on this PC" first.
Windows displays a selection menu that resembles the one from the Settings application but lists an option at the very bottom to "look for another app on this PC".
This option loads a file browser that you use to select the executable file manually on the system. It enables you to select portable programs and programs not listed by Windows in the Settings menu.
Note: You may need to click on "more apps" in the menu first, then scroll all the way down until you find the option listed in it.
Repeat the procedure for all file extensions and protocols you want to map to the program.
Tip: You may also want to try the "set your default programs" option of the Control Panel applet. This makes things easier as it allows you to map all supported file extensions and protocols to a program. Windows may not list portable programs in the menu, however.
Windows users who don't run portable apps on their system may never encounter the issue, but those who do will run into issues when they try to map it to file extensions or protocols as Microsoft has not added that option to the Settings application.
Is it an oversight, metrics that show that portable application use is insignificant, or one way to promote Windows Store apps? We don't know at this point, but it is something that Microsoft should address before it removes the Control Panel for good.Advertisement