Featured - Choose Default Apps in Windows 11

Most filetypes in Windows have a default app associated with them. When you double-click a file, it will automatically open with this app, saving you some time. However, having the wrong default app settings does the exact opposite. You end up fumbling around menus and losing vital time.

In this guide, we’re going to show you how to change a default app in Windows 11.

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How do I change the default program for opening files in Windows 11?

There are multiple ways to change file associations in Windows. The most commonly used is through the right-click “Open with” context menu, but this isn’t the best choice for every scenario.

As a result, we’ll also be showing you how to change the default app in Windows 11 through the file’s properties and three different menus in the Settings app. This should give you the ability to pick whichever method is best for your scenario. Let’s get started:

How to Change a Default App in Windows 11 Using the “Open with” Context Menu

The “Open with” context menu is a quick and easy way to change file associations in Windows 11 and Windows 10. All you need is a file of that type that you can navigate to and a few seconds:

  1. Right-click your file and press “Open with > Choose another app”

    Of course, if your desired program already shows in the context menu, you can just click it there rather than choose the “another app” option.

    Windows 11 - File - Open With - Choose Another App

  2. Select an app from the list, tick “Always use this app to open…” and press “OK”

    Windows 11 - File - Open With - Choose Another App - Check Always Use This App

  3. Or: Press “More apps” if your desired default app doesn’t show in the list

    Windows 11 - File - Open With - Choose Another App - Check Always Use This App - More Apps

  4. Choose from the expanded list or click “Look for an app in the Microsoft Store”

    Windows 11 - File - Open With - Choose Another App - Check Always Use This App - More Apps - Look for App in Microsoft Store

  5. OR: Press “Look for another app on this PC” and browse to an app of your choice

    You’ll want to browse to the app’s .exe file in your program files and open it as the default app.

    Windows 11 - File - Open With - Choose Another App - Check Always Use This App - More Apps - Look for App on this PC

How to Change the Default App to Open a File in File Properties

Another option to change file associations is through a file’s properties. This will bring you to the same menu as you see above, but can be more intuitive for some people:

  1. Right-click your file and press “Properties”

    Windows 11 - Right-click on File - Properties

  2. In the “General” tab, press “Change”

    Windows 11 - Right-click on File - Properties - General - Change Open With

  3. Press the “More apps” link

    Windows 11 - Right-click on File - Properties - General - Change Open With - More Apps

  4. Select an app from the list or press “Look for an app in the Microsoft Store”

    Windows 11 - Right-click on File - Properties - General - Change Open With - More Apps - Look For App in Micrsoft Store

  5. OR: click “Look for an app on this PC” at the bottom of the list

    This will let you browse directly to the .exe of a program to open the file type with, which is useful if it’s not listed by Windows.

    Windows 11 - Right-click on File - Properties - General - Change Open With - More Apps - Look For App on this PC

How to Change Default App via Windows 11’s Default App Settings

If you want to change file associations for multiple apps, it’s best to use Windows’ settings app. This provides a unified portal that shows what apps are associated with what file types and allows you to change them.

  1. Press the Start icon and click on the Settings cog

    Windows 11 - Open Settings

  2. Click “Apps” in the sidebar, then “Default apps” in the main pane

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps

  3. Search for an app using the search bar

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Search Apps

  4. OR: Click an app in the list to view its file associations

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Scroll Down to Search App

  5. Click the app under a filetype to change it

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps -Search App - Choose a File

  6. Press “More apps”

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps -Search App - Choose a File - More Apps

  7. Choose an app from the list or press “Look for an app in the Microsoft Store”

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps -Search App - Choose a File - More Apps - Look for App in Microsft Store

  8. Or: Click “Look for another app on this PC” and browse to the app’s file location

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps -Search App - Choose a File - More Apps - Look for App on this PC

How to Set Default Apps in Windows by File Type in Settings

If choosing the file type based on its existing app doesn’t make sense to you, you can change the default app settings by File Type instead. To do this, we make use of a separate section in the Settings app.

  1. Press the Start button and click “Settings”

    Windows 11 - Open Settings

  2. Press “Apps” in the sidebar, then “Default apps” in the main pane

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps

  3. Scroll down to the “Related settings” section and click “Choose defaults by file type”

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Defaults by File Type

  4. Search for a file type using the search bar at the top

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Defaults by File Type - Search

  5. Scroll down to your file type and click the application icon to change the default app

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Defaults by File Type - Scroll Down to Search File Type

  6. Press “More apps” in the flyout menu

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Defaults by File Type -Search File Type - More Apps

  7. Choose an app from the list or click “Look for an app in the Microsoft Store”

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Defaults by File Type -Search File Type - More Apps - Look For App in Microsoft Store

  8. OR: Press “Look for another app on this PC” and browse to your programs .exe file

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Defaults by File Type -Search File Type - More Apps - Look For App on this PC

How to Change What App Opens a File in Windows 11 by Link Type in Settings

So, what about when the default program isn’t associated with a filetype at all, but instead a link type? In this case, we’re best off using the “Choose defaults by link type” option. Here’s how to change a default app in Windows 11 using this method:

  1. Press the Start button and click “Settings”

    Windows 11 - Open Settings

  2. Click “Apps” in the Settings sidebar and then “Default apps” in the main pane

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps

  3. Scroll down to the “Related settings” section and press “choose defaults by link type”

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Default by Link Type

  4. Search for a link type

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Default by Link Type - Search

  5. Scroll down until you find a link you want to change and click the app icon

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Default by Link Type - Scroll Down to Search

  6. Choose an app from the list and press “OK”

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Default by Link Type - Scroll Down to Select Link Type - Choose One - Accept

  7. OR: Click “Look for an app in the Microsoft Store”

    Windows 11 - Settings - Apps - Default Apps - Choose Default by Link Type - Scroll Down to Select Link Type - Look for App in Microsoft Store

How to Change File Type in Windows 11 / Windows 10

It’s important to understand that it’s possible to change the default program to open a file type to one that doesn’t support its format. In these cases, you’ll get an error along the lines of “x cannot open this file”, and will have to change the file type if you want to continue.

Unfortunately, you cannot just use the rename feature to change a filetype in most cases. This is because the encoding of the file remains the same and the associated app still can’t open it. We explain all of this in detail in our how to safely change a file extension or file type guide, but, in short, your options are:

Opening a file in an app that does support the file and saving it into a compatible format

The simplest and most effective way to change a filetype is to open it in the software it is intended to be used in and export it in another format. For example, if you try to set a the default viewer for a .psd file as Microsoft Photos, you will not be able to view its contents. To remedy this, you could open it in Photoshop and then export it as a .png or .jpg. In cases where there is a proprietary filetype used, this is often your only option.

Convert the filetype with a File Converter

Another option is to make use of a file converter, whether it’s an online one or a desktop app. This won’t work for every file type, but it should work for most of them. A program we often utilize is the open-source File Converter, but you can use whatever you like.

Extra: How to Change Default Apps in Windows 10

If you haven’t yet made the switch to Windows 11, you’ll want to follow our how to change default apps/programs in Windows 10 guide instead. This way the interface will match up and you’ll have a much easier time.

Extra: How to Change the Default Start Folder for File Explorer

While you’re changing defaults, you might want to consider our guide on changing your default start program for File Explorer. It can save you a lot of time if the “Home”/ “Recent files” screen doesn’t really work for you.

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