Microsoft Windows 7 – How to Quickly Set File Associations & Extensions – Level: Intermediate

I sometimes get a call from clients who suddenly cannot open PDF files. This is usually due to Windows losing the file association for PDF files, often due to a program update when two or more PDF readers are installed; for instance, Adobe Reader and Foxit Reader. Something happens during the program update and rather than one program or the other claiming the PDF file type, both programs lose out. Suddenly Windows 7 cannot open PDF files.

This same process I’m about to show you works for other file types such as .DOCX or .XLSX, as long as you know which program should open the files (MS Word & MS Excel respectively, in this case).

#1 Find the file in Windows Explorer.

#2 Right-click that file and select Open With\Choose Default Program… from the pop-up menu.

This screenshot shows the results when I did this with a PDF file.

Windows 7 Choose Default Program - PDF

There are two programs Windows knows uses PDF files, in this case: Adobe Reader and Foxit Reader. You could choose either program to open your PDFs.

Notice the checkbox labelled “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file.” You want to pay attention to this setting! PDFs will fail to open or, possibly, open in a different program than you expect if this checkbox is not selected.

#3 Perform step A or B:

A) Click once on the program of your choice in the Recommended Programs area, ensure the above mentioned “Always use this selected program to open this kind of file” checkbox is enabled, then click the OK button. This dialog box will go away and the PDF will open in the program you chose.

B) Click the BROWSE button if your desired program is not shown in the Recommended Programs section of the dialog box. Navigate to and select the executable file of the program you want to use for PDF files. It could be WINWORD.EXE, likely found in “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office 15\root\office15\” folder. Click the OPEN button, then the OK button. The dialog box will close and the PDF will open in Microsoft Word 2013.

All future PDFs will open in the program you selected.

As I mentioned earlier, this same method will work with other file extensions. Select Microsoft Excel to open, XLSX files; or Microsoft Word to open DOCX files, for instance. The trick is knowing what program goes with what file type. Here is a guide to most known file types.


Dennis Strain
Enclave Managed Networks
Box 365, Smithers, BC, Canada V0J 2N0

dstrain@enclave365.ca
877-877-8793 toll free phone & fax

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