Windows 10 Annoyance: Choose default apps

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 20, 2016
Updated • Nov 11, 2019
Windows, Windows 10

Windows 10 ships with a new interface to choose default applications on the system. While the classic control panel applet is still there, most users of Windows 10 are probably exposed to the options in the new Settings application first.

To get there, press Windows-I to open the Settings app on a machine running Windows 10, and go to System > Default Apps afterwards.

There you find default applications listed for major tasks such as email, photo viewing, playing music or videos, or web browsing.

You may change the default program right there. Recently though I noticed that this is no longer possible. While I can click on a program to change it, selecting another won't replace it at all.

But that is just a bug that is probably going to get sorted out in the future.

Choose default apps

choose default apps type

The main complaint I have is that the "choose default apps by file type" and "choose default apps by protocol" configuration pages make things quite difficult for the user.

When you open the "by file type" configuration page for instance, Windows 10's Settings app displays an ultra-long list of file extensions and associated programs.

You may set a program or app for any of the listed file types right there. The main issue is that there is no search or quick jump option. Want to change .html, .zip or .docx file associations on Windows 10?

Scroll down until you get there to do so. This is anything but practical and takes way too long to change file type associations.

The same is true for the "by protocol" listing, although it is a bit shorter as there fewer protocols available than file types (and many are custom protocols used by Windows apps).

The issue is the same however. There is no search, and you need to scroll to find the protocol you want to change.

default apps by protocol

If this would be a one-time operation, then you might be able to live with it. Considering that settings may reset after updates, it is unfortunately not the case usually.

Update: The workaround is not working anymore in recent versions of Windows 10. While you can still activate "set your default programs" in the Control Panel applet, doing so opens the Default apps listing in the Windows 10 Settings app.

Workaround solution

The best option you have currently is to use the "set default programs" Control Panel applet instead.

set default programs

Click on "set defaults by app" under System > Default Apps in the Settings application to go there. You may open it directly as well:

  1. Use the keyboard shortcut Windows-Pause to open the System Control Panel window.
  2. Select All Control Panel Items in the address bar.
  3. Select Default Programs.
  4. Click on Set your default programs.

Tip: You may select "associate a file type or protocol with a program" for granular control.

Windows displays a list of installed programs on the page that opens. Simply select one of the programs that you want to make the default for a protocol or file type.

You have the option to set the program as the default for all file types and protocols that it claims that it supports, or select choose defaults for this program instead to select them individually.

Changing file and protocol associations this way worked on the system that would not let me change them using the Settings application.

Tip: While there is no search as well, you may tap on the first letter of the file type or protocol to jump to the first matching entry in the listing.

Windows 10 Annoyance: Choose default apps
Article Name
Windows 10 Annoyance: Choose default apps
Windows 10 directs users to the Settings application to choose default apps for file types and protocols. The feature lacks controls in its current state.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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