If you’ve ever installed a program and suddenly found certain file types opening with it instead of what you had before, it can be confusing and annoying. Today we take a look at how you can control which applications are opening certain file types on you computer.

The Problem

You’re finally figuring out Windows 7 and listening to your favorite songs on Windows Media Player and everything is great. You then decide to install iTunes because you just got an iPod as a gift. After installation, you realize the icons in your music folder look different and they’re opening with iTunes by default instead of WMP…what happened?

While you were installing iTunes you may not have noticed that it installs itself as the default player for all audio files unless you uncheck the option. This situation can happen a lot with all different programs and file types. Using the Set Default Programs feature in Windows 7 and Vista you can gain control over which applications are associated with each file type.

Set Default Programs 

To access the Set Default Programs feature, click on Start  and click Default Programs.

Click on Set your default programs.

Go through each program  and decide if you want to set it up for the default program to open all of the file types it’s capable of opening.

Or you can choose which file types to associate each program with. Like in this example we’re selecting Foobar2000 as the default programs for just certain types of audio files while VLC and WMP open others.

You can also go in and associate file types with different programs, like in this example VLC is opening WMV files and we want to change it to Windows Media Player. You can highlight the file type and click the Change program button or simply double click on it.

Select a program from the list under Recommended or Other Programs or you can browse to the location of a specific app if it’s not listed. Notice the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file box is checked and grayed out because we’re going through the Set Default Programs to get to the Open with screen. Windows assumes changes are permanent because of the route we took to get here and grays it out.

If you right-click on a file and go to Open with by way of the context menu…

The box is not grayed out and you can decide if it will always open that type of program or not.

In Set Default Programs you can also change AutoPlay settings for when you insert media or devices like a flash drive. For example you can set DVDs to always open in Media Player and music CDs to ask you every time. You can also turn it off by unchecking Use AutoPlay for all media and devices.

If you have it set to ask you when you put in say a DVD…AutoPlay opens and you can choose what to open it with. You can also access the above setting by clicking View more AutoPlay options in Control Panel.

Another cool utility for controlling file associations is Default Programs Editor which we previously covered. This will give you all of the options we just took a look at and a lot more.

This should help you get started in deciding what programs you want to feature with different file types. In this tutorial we focused on music and movie files, but it works the same for any file type.