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Remove Programs from the Open With Menu in Explorer

Would you like to clean up the Open with menu in Windows Explorer?  Here’s how you can remove program entries you don’t want in this menu on any version of Windows.

Have you ever accidently opened an mp3 with Notepad, or a zip file with Word?  If so, you’re also likely irritated that these programs now show up in the Open with menu in Windows Explorer every time you select one of those files.  Whenever you open a file type with a particular program, Windows will add an entry for it to the Open with menu.  Usually this is helpful, but it can also clutter up the menu with wrong entries.

bloated openwith menu

On our computer, we have tried to open a PDF file with Word and Notepad, neither which can actually view the PDF itself.  Let’s remove these entries.  To do this, we need to remove the registry entries for these programs.  Enter regedit in your Start menu search or in the Run command to open the Registry editor.

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Backup your registry first just in case, so you can roll-back any changes you make if you accidently delete the wrong value. 

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Now, browse to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \Software \Microsoft \Windows \CurrentVersion \ Explorer \FileExts\

Here you’ll see a list of all the file extensions that are registered on your computer.

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Browse to the file extension you wish to edit, click the white triangle beside it to see the subfolders, and select OpenWithList.  In our test, we want to change the programs associated with PDF files, so we select the OpenWithList folder under .pdf.

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Notice the names of the programs under the Data column on the right.  Right-click the value for the program you don’t want to see in the Open With menu and select Delete.

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Click Yes at the prompt to confirm that you want to delete this value.

sshot-2010-05-26-[16-52-23]

Repeat these steps with all the programs you want to remove from this file type’s Open with menu.  You can go ahead and remove entries from other file types as well if you wish.

Once you’ve removed the entries you didn’t want to see, check out the Open with menu in Explorer again.  Now it will be much more streamlined and will only show the programs you want to see.

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Conclusion

This simple trick can help you keep your Open with menu tidy, and only show the programs you want in the list.  It can be irritating to accidently open files in programs that can’t even read them.  This trick works in all versions of Windows, including 2000, XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 05/27/10

Comments (20)

  1. Jeff Wahlund

    Tried this and it didn’t work. In the registry, the program (notepad) is gone, but when I use open with, it’s back. The ext. is pdf.

  2. Brook

    That didn’t help much, quite a few additional programs are listed on the open with menu even though they aren’t listed in that section of the registry– is there any other place they would be listed?

  3. Jason Saggers

    I checked the .PDF extension and the first one is Firefox, the second is ghostscript and I don’t even recognise the the other ones.
    To me it seems they are all a little random.

    Is it possible to delete half of these extensions? wow windows is a messy OS.

  4. Matthew Guay

    @all – as you can see in our screenshots, the registry showed entries that do not show up in our “Open with” menu. These are other programs that are associated with the file type in another way. Firefox may be associated because you can open PDFs with the Adobe handler in Firefox, but it still may not show up in the “Open with” menu. There’s a method to the madness ;)

    I would only recomend removing entries that you know why you’re removing them. If Firefox is showing up in the Open with menu, removing it will just remove it from that, and is fine. Otherwise, it’s hard to say exactly why you’re seeing the entry, and leaving it may be better.

    For more info, you can check out this support KB from Microsoft about this same topic: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/258860

    Hope this helps!

  5. Steven Torrey

    Well, this was interesting, giving as it does insight on the registry. I would like to know how to get rid of viruses that creep into the registry. You probably have done this, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it repeated. These are a real pain and awfully expensive to get rid of by going to the professional computer maintenance guy. Especially ‘redirect virus.’ Thanks. Steven

  6. Bill

    What if you just want to REORDER the programs to have the most used ones at the top .
    Can that be done ?

  7. Mike

    I was wondering, how do you add to the list?

  8. Matthew Guay

    @Bill – Let me check into that. I’ve got an idea of how to do it, but I need to test it out.

    @Mike – The easiest way to add to the list is to open a file with that program. So, in the Open With menu, select Choose Default Program and select a different program in that dialog.

  9. Jeremy

    For the users that are unable to get the desired results, have a look at HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.whatever file extension\OpenWithList and continue as instructed above. As always, back up your registry before you begin.

  10. Davin Peterson

    When you click on an .mp3 file, the open with menu changes to a play with menu. I want to how I can add or remove program from the menu

  11. Matthew Guay

    @Davin – That menu is basically the same, just the wording changed. Just find the mp3 extension in the registry, and edit as above … should work the same.

  12. jones

    Whenever I download a file using firefox – Firefox gets added to the “open with” menu. So freaking annoying.

  13. Webpete

    I have a related problem. I need to clean-up the menu that I see when I right-click on any icon in my quick-launch on the task-bar. There are about 20 icons in the menu box related to different programs that I don’t need, (mostly zip and rar) and the the one option that I do need which is “Open” is not there at all.
    If this helps, everything is normal with the desktop icon menus.
    Have you ever seen anything like this before?
    If so, please help.
    Thanks

  14. Matthew Guay

    @Webpete – Yes, that’s a common problem. Check out this article for info on cleaning it up – http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/how-to-clean-up-your-messy-windows-context-menu/

  15. A Hylian Human

    I wish there was a way to completely reset File Extensions and Associations without having to reinstall Windows or do a System Restore.

  16. sdk

    @ Hylian – You can. There are many sites online that offer a registry template you can import to reset your file extensions and associations.

  17. Tracy Marks

    This absolutely does not work when you have multiple versions of the same program. I teach and tutor photoshop, and students often have versions cs2, cs3, cs4 and cs5 so I keep all on my computer, but personally use cs5. However, my open with menu will only open photoshop cs2. All the registry values for open with simply say photoshop.exe but don’t indicate which of four different photoshop.exe programs they’re referring to. When I change open with to another version of photoshop, it keeps reverting to the cs2 version. It’s driving me crazy. It doesn’t look like there’s a way to change this when the program file name is the same but is in multiple folders because of the different versions.

  18. Lettie

    What a great rsoeruce this text is.

  19. Brad

    Okay, I’ve been looking at the relevant registry keys, and I’d like to share my problem. New file types that are not found on the PC are given two options: go to a web service to find the correct program, or choose from a list of installed programs. There are some programs that appear when I select the second option that I would like to remove from this option.

    What do I do?

  20. jayaraj

    greak work

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