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How to change default programs in Windows 10

The default programs that Windows 10 uses to open different file types are pretty good right from the start. But maybe you'd like to change what program opens music or photos? Here's how to change the default applications in Windows 10.

How to change default programs in Windows 10

As with Windows 8, Windows 10 has two (2) applications for almost every file type, one Universal and one Windows. That way Windows 10 can run on both a tablet (Universal apps) and desktop (Windows apps). In fact, there are two (2) different programs to modify the default applications for Windows 10. The Universal application is quite easy to use, but the Windows application has more features.

How to change the default applications in Windows 10 using the Universal program

The Universal program for changing default applications in Windows 10
The Universal program for changing default applications in Windows 10

This is the easiest way to change a default program there is. Just left-click on the program listed under the file type (music player, photo viewer, web browser, etc.) and a list of programs will pop up. Just left-click on the program you want used to open that type of file and you are ready to go.

  1. Left-click on the Start button to bring up the Start menu.
  2. Left-click on Settings.
  3. Left-click on System.
  4. In the left hand column, left-click on Default apps.

The most common file types will appear in the right column. On the bottom of the right hand column, you will find three more advanced ways of modifying the default applications:

  • Choose default apps by type (Universal)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain file types, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the extension of the object you want to open. Be certain of the file extension before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Choose default apps by protocol (Universal)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain protocols, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the protocol of the object you want to open. Be certain of the protocol before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Set defaults by app (Windows)
    When you choose this option, you are presented with a list of installed programs and you can choose what each one does or does not do. You can set an application to open all of the types of files it can or select which types of files to open with that particular program.

How to change the default applications in Windows 10 using the Windows program

The Windows program for changing default applications in Windows 10
The Windows program for changing default applications in Windows 10

This way of changing default programs is the most familiar for anybody who has used Windows 7 or Windows Vista. You have to go to the Control Panel to access these options.

  1. Right-click on the Start button to bring up the Power Users menu.
  2. Left-click on Control Panel.

or

  1. In the search box to the right of the Start button type Control Panel.
  2. Left-click on the Control Panel (Desktop app).

or

  1. Left-click on the Start button and left-click on All apps.
  2. Scroll down to Windows System and left-click on it to expand it out.
  3. Left-click on Control Panel.
  • If you are viewing the Control Panel by category, left-click on Programs, then left-click on Default Programs.
  • If you are viewing the Control Panel by icons, left-click on Default Programs.

You have four (4) different ways of modifying the default applications:

  • Set your default programs (Windows)
    When you choose this option, you are presented with a list of installed programs and you can choose what each one does or does not do. You can set on application to open all of the types of files it can or select which types of files to open with that particular program.
  • Associate a file type or protocol with a program (Windows)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain file / protocol types, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the extension / protocol of the object you want to open. Be certain of the file extension / protocol before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Change AutoPlay settings (Windows)
    This is where you change what happens when you insert removable media (CD/DVD, memory card, flash drive, etc.) into your computer. If you check Use AutoPlay for media and devices and don't choose a default, you will get prompted on what you would like to do every time you insert that type of media.
  • Set program access and computer defaults (Windows)
    This one has been around since Windows XP and has to be the most familiar way to change default applications. Just left-click on the Custom radio button and expand the choices by left-clicking the double arrows on the right hand side. Then just left-click on the radio button next to the program you want as default and you are ready to go.

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