How to remove Open With programs in Windows

Martin Brinkmann
May 24, 2018
Updated • May 24, 2018

Open With is a useful feature of the Windows operating system that allows you to open files with different programs from Explorer.

While you can map a file type such as zip to a program so that it gets opened whenever you double-click on a file of that type, you can also right-click on files and select open with to launch the file in a different program.

Windows opens an "open with" menu when you double-click on files that have no default program associated with them so that you may pick a suitable program from the list that is provided.

Sometimes, you may notice that old or unwanted programs are on the list; this happened to me the other day. I installed a new software to open archives to update a review and removed the program after I finished testing it. While the program was removed from the Windows 10 machine, the open with and "how do you want to open this" menus still listed it as one of the options. Selection did not do anything because the program was not installed anymore, and it was presented in a prominent spot on top of that.

Remove Open With programs on Windows

Windows users have two main options when it comes to dealing with unneeded items in the Open With menu or adding new items to it:

  1. Manipulate listings directly in the Windows Registry.
  2. Use third-party programs for that instead.

Direct manipulation has the advantage that you don't need to run third-party software to make the changes; the disadvantage is that it is not as easy and straightforward as what some of the third-party programs that edit Open With data offer.

Using the Registry

edit open with registry

Using the Registry to remove Open With items from Windows is relatively easy.

Note: Since you are deleting keys and values in the Registry you may want to create a backup first before you do so. Select File > Export in the Registry Editor to back up the selected key and data.

  1. Open the Start Menu, type regedit.exe, and select the result to load the Registry Editor.
  2. Confirm the UAC prompt that is displayed.
  3. Go to the root key Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\

The key lists all known file types in alphabetical order.

  1. Click on the file extension that you want to edit the open with programs for.
  2. Select the "OpenWithList" key to list all available entries.

delete open with item

You delete any item listed on the page by right-clicking on it and selecting delete from the context menu. You are asked to confirm the deletion and need to select yes to delete the selected value from the Registry.

confirm value delete

All that is left to do is repeat the process for any other program or file type that you want to remove items from.

The changes should be visible right away in the right-click open with menu in Explorer. A restart is not required.

Using third-party software

Several applications have been created over the years to make the editing of the Open With menu more comfortable.

OpenWithView by Nirsoft (all Windows versions)

OpenWithView is a free program for all versions of Windows that lists all applications that you may find listed under the Open With menu in Windows Explorer.

Apart from listing those apps, it allows you to disable them if you don't need them so that they are not shown in the menu anymore from that moment on.

To disable an entry select it with the mouse and right-click afterwards. There you find the option to disable it to block it from being listed in the Open With menu. You may also use the shortcut F8 to disable entries and F7 to enable them if you prefer to use the keyboard.

OpenWithView does not offer granular controls but it lets you remove an application from any menu it may be displayed in directly.

Open With Enhanced (Windows 7 and older)

openwith enhanced

OpenWith Enhanced improves the Windows Open With dialog. Once installed, it turns the Open With dialog into a more user friendly version.

The program uses a program association database that is constantly updated to suggest applications that can be used to open the selected file in the Windows operating system.

Installed programs are displayed with different backgrounds than programs that are not installed. A click on a program that is suggested but not installed will open the program's home page on the Internet from where it can be downloaded to the local PC.

That's handy for users who have no idea which program they need to open a specific file type, and users who would like to try out alternatives to programs already available on the system.

The program options are displayed with a click on Settings. Here it is possible to change the application backgrounds and label colors, the way programs are displayed in the Open With dialog, the sending of anonymous usage statistics and if the program should check for updates regularly.

Another interesting option is the ability to remove file associations for users on the system, and to remove Open With menu entries in Windows Explorer to clean up the context menu of Window's native file management tool.

Lastly, a click on "look for the appropriate program on the Web" opens the OpenWith Enhanced database on the Internet.

Open Expert (Windows XP and earlier)

manage open programs

Open Expert is probably the best application to configure the available applications for the Open With dialog for each file type in Windows. A list is populated with all Open With programs after selecting a file type from the list of available extensions.

Each program in the list can be rearranged in position or removed from the list completely. Alternatively new programs can be added from the hard drive. Open Expert is easy to use and the results are immediately visible.

Easily open your graphic files in your favorite paint programs or view your HTML files in either Netscape or Internet Explorer, just with a few mouse clicks. You can even add different versions of the same program to the OpenExpert menu.

The screenshot below shows how it works: Right-click your file, point to "Open with" and then just click on the program which should open the file. That's how easy it is!

Please note that the program is only compatible with Windows XP and earlier versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system. The program is free for personal use.

How to remove Open With programs in Windows
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How to remove Open With programs in Windows
Open With is a useful feature of the Windows operating system that allows you to open files with different programs from Explorer.
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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

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