Article ID: 307859 - View products that this article applies to.
This article was previously published under Q307859
Expand all | Collapse all

On This Page

INTRODUCTION

When you double-click a file to open it, Windows XP examines the file name extension. If Windows XP recognizes the file name extension, it opens the file in the program that is associated with that file name extension.

However, you can change the program that is associated with recognized file name extensions so that Windows XP opens all files that have this extension in the new associated program. This article describes how to change these file associations.

This article also describes how to associate a file name extension that Windows XP does not recognize with a specific program. When Windows XP does not recognize a file name extension, you receive the following message:
Windows cannot open this file:

name of the file
To open this file, Windows needs to know what program you want to use to open it.

If you receive this message, you can skip directly to the "To create file associations for unassociated file types" section to resolve it.

More information

Before you start, make sure that you can see the file name extensions of your files in Windows Explorer. If you cannot see your file name extensions, follow the instructions in the "To display file name extensions" section.

To display file name extensions

Depending on your settings, the file name extensions of your files may not be visible. To display the file name extensions of your files if they are not visible, follow these steps:
  1. Open My Computer or Windows Explorer.
  2. On the Tools menu, click Folder Options.
  3. Click the View tab.
  4. In the Advanced settings box, click to clear the Hide extensions for known file types check box.
  5. Click OK.

To change which program starts when you double-click a file

Notes
  • You cannot use this method for a file that does not have a file name extension, or for a file that has an .exe, .com, or .bat extension.
  • If you change the program that Windows uses to open a certain kind of file, and that program was not designed for the type of data in that file, the files may not appear correctly in the program. To be safe, note the name of the program that Windows previously used to open the file type so that you can reverse your settings if it is necessary.
To change which program starts when you double-click a file, follow these steps:
  1. Open Windows Explorer by right-clicking the Start button, and then click Explore.
  2. Click a folder that contains a file of the type that you want Windows to open in a program that you select.
  3. Right-click the file and, depending on the programs installed on your computer, complete one of the following steps:
    • Click Open With to choose the program that you want.
    • Point to Open With, and then click Choose Program to choose the program that you want.
  4. The Open With dialog box is displayed. Use one of the following methods to select the program that you want to use for this file type:
    • In the Programs list, click the program that you want to use.
    • Click Browse, locate and then click the program that you want to use, and then click Open.
    • Click Look for the appropriate program on the Web to browse the Internet for the program that you want to use.
  5. Click to select the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file check box if it is not selected.
  6. Click OK.

    Note From now on, Windows XP will open all files that have this file name extension in the program that you selected. To change this, you must follow these steps again and associate a different program with this file name extension.

To create file associations for unassociated file types

If you receive a message that Windows needs to know what program you want to use to open a file, follow these steps to create an association between the unknown file name extension and a program that will open it:
  1. Right-click a file that has the extension that you want to associate with a program on your computer, and then click Open.

    Note If the Open command is not available, click Open With or double-click the file.
  2. Windows XP displays a dialog box that says that Windows cannot open this file. The dialog box offers two options for selecting a program:
    • Use the Web service to find the appropriate program
    • Select the program from a list
    Unless you want to find and download software that opens this file type, the best choice is to select the program from a list.
  3. Click Select the program from a list, and then click OK.
  4. The Open With dialog box is displayed. Use one of the following methods to select the program that you want to use for this file type:
    • In the Programs list, click the program that you want.
    • Click Browse, locate and then click the program that you want to use, and then click Open.
    • Click Look for the appropriate program on the Web to browse the Internet for the program that you want.
  5. Click to select the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file check box if it is not selected.
  6. Click OK.

To change or create a file association from File Types list

If Open With command is not available, try the following steps:
  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Click Folder Options.
  3. Click File Types tab in Folder Options window and the full file types and their association will be listed.
  4. Click New and type the File Extension in the box and then click Advanced.
  5. Choose an association for the file type.
  6. Click OK and then Click Close.
  7. Open the file again.

Properties

Article ID: 307859 - Last Review: May 22, 2013 - Revision: 6.0
Applies to
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Keywords: 
kbresolve kbhowtomaster kbcip KB307859

Give Feedback

 

Contact us for more help

Contact us for more help
Connect with Answer Desk for expert help.
Get more support from smallbusiness.support.microsoft.com