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When using Windows 11, the OS keeps track of which apps open which types of files by default. For example, Notepad usually opens TXT files. Here’s how to change those default file associations in Settings.

How to Find the Default Apps Menu in Settings

The Windows 11 Settings app provides a convenient interface for selecting or changing which apps open which types of files. To find it, first, open Windows Settings by pressing Windows+i on your keyboard. Or, you can right-click the Start button and select “Settings” from the menu.

In Windows 11, right-click the Start button and select "Settings."

In Settings, click “Apps” in the sidebar, and then select “Default Apps” on the right side of the Window.

In Windows 11 Settings, click "Apps," then select "Default Apps."

Once you’re on the Default Apps screen, there are several different ways to change your default app settings. We’ll go over two of them in different sections below.

How to Choose Defaults by File Type

One of the easiest ways to change a default app is through searching by file type. In Settings > Apps > Default Apps, you’ll see a text box labeled “Enter a file type or link type.” Click that box and type in the name of the file extension that you’d like to associate with an app. For example, “.txt” for text files or “.jpg” for JPEG images.

Click the text box to search for a file type.

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If you typed an extension that isn’t registered, you’ll see a button labeled “Choose a Default” that will allow you to set the default app for it. (If that’s the case, click it, and you’ll follow instructions similar to those listed below.)

If you typed a known file type, you’ll see the app that the file extension is currently associated with just below the text entry box. To change the association, click the app box that appears.

Click the file type you'd like to change.

A pop-up will ask “How do you want to open [extension] files from now on?”, with [extension] being the type of file extension that you’re working on, such as .txt or .jpg. In the list of apps below, select the app that you’d like to use, and then click OK.

Select an app from the list and select "OK."

From now on, the file type that you just modified will open with the app that you selected. You can change it back at any time in Settings > Apps > Default Apps.

How to Choose Defaults by App

You can also change file associations by app. On the Default Apps screen, you’ll see a list of installed apps. Locate the app that you’d like to change defaults for (or search for it in the text box), and then click it. We’ll use Photos as an example.

Select an app in the list.

On the details screen for the app that you chose, scroll down and select the file type that you’d like to associate with a different program.

Select the file type you want to change.

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When Setup asks you which program you want to open the file with, browse the list, select the app that you want to use, and then click “OK.”

Select an app then click "OK."

After that, the file association will change. Repeat as desired to fix everything up just how you like it.

Change File Associations by Opening a File

Finally, you can also change default file associations when you open a file. First, locate a file of the type that you want to re-associate with a new program on your desktop or in File Explorer. Right-click the file and select “Open With,” and then “Choose Another App” from the menu.

Right-click the file, select "Open With," then select "Choose Another Program."

In the menu that pops up, select the app that you’d like to always open this file type with. Then, check the box beside “Always use this app to open [extension] files.” Then, click “OK.”

Select the app, check the box, then click "OK."

And that’s it. From now on, whenever you double-click that file type in File Explorer or on your desktop, it will always open in the app that you selected. Good luck!

RELATED: Here's What Windows 11's New File Explorer Looks Like

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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