How-To Geek

Beginner Geek: Set Default Programs in Windows 7 and Vista

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.

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 11/2/09

Comments (12)

  1. tolip

    I’ve tagged my mp3-Songs with mp3tag 2.44. However, windows media player (the built-in of windows 7) does not necessarily “understand” the tags. sometimes it reads the tags, sometimes it does not and says unknown title, uknown genre and so on.
    Why does WMP behaves so strangely??

  2. chris0089

    How do you get your cursor to show in your screenshots?

  3. david barron

    hello I have Windows 7. For two weeks I was able to send fotos from Windows Live Galory and Picasa and also Hit Reply to mail sent to me,,,Send Mail from my contacts… All from Windows Live Mail…Now I can’t do any of those,,, I tried to Set WindowsLive Mail as my default but it won’t accept it…Also can’t send from Yahoo messenger

  4. al denbleyker

    In Windows 7, how do I switch from MS Outlook defualt to Gmail default ?
    There seems to be no way in the MS menus.

  5. IGOR

    windows media center has taken over my computer. if i try to open any program in my account (admin) it will run windows media player that go´s from iexplorer to notepad and it replaced all of the icons for the media center icon. but in another account everything runs fine. Any recomendations?
    OS: windows 7
    I dont know the windows media center version.

  6. robbiejw

    great, except NO PROGRAMS ARE SHOWN IN THE PROGRAMS LIST! any help??

  7. Robert Turnicky

    How do you change the default email client In Windows 7

  8. sondra jackson

    when I exit from a program I used to get links to “close this browser only” or “close all browsers”; now it has dissapeared altogether. I don’t know what happened or what to do. Does anyone have any suggestions? I’m new at being a geek (12 mos).

  9. Carmen Latorre

    How can iset my e-mail default in windows 7?

  10. PearlChoco

    “How can iset my e-mail default in windows 7?”

    Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Set Program acces and computer defaults > Custom > choose default email program

  11. Terry Bernardo

    I tried what you said in the above note about getting rid of windows live mail and using my gmail
    for my default mail protocol. But STILL when I click on a link live mail pops up. How do I get rid of it and have it go to gmail when I click on a link?? this is driving me nuts!!

  12. Jake

    This is gay. I know how to do all those steps, the problem is that my computer simply refuses to allow me to use the program I specified. Weird thing is, it used to, and now it doesn’t. I do all that, but once I’ve selected the program I want to use it just doesn’t show up, and when I hit open it uses Acrobat Reader instead. Like I said, THIS IS GAY. Windows is GAY. Its the window Bill Gates uses to spy on hotties while they’re showering. He is so GAY.

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