Semi-aggressive application defaults in Windows 10

Ever had the problem of not being able to change the default applications in Windows 10 for certain file types? Installed your favorite media player and you are still unable to somehow get around that and make sure that the default program for AVI, MPG and other files is the player of your choice?

Sure enough, in Windows 10 for some reason it is not easy to change default apps. While the setting exists and isn’t too hard to find, it seems that there is more depth to having a certain application automatically open a certain file (of a given extension). For example, I will now share how I successfully changed the defaults for images – because my favorite program is IrfanView for those – but in the same manner, Windows 10 didn’t allow me to change the default application for media files. You will see how and probably not why (because I don’t know why) the default apps are changed or in some cases, not changed.

The starting point is the settings of Windows 10. You can access them via the Start Menu, or simply from the keyboard pressing Win + I . The following screen comes up:

Now, choosing the Apps section should bring us exactly to where the settings are. Let’s choose it and then continue from there!

What we care about is the Default apps, because that is where you can tell Windows 10 what application would be used to open which file(s). To be more precise, this is exactly the main issue – while you can, theoretically, change these settings, factually it is not always possible because the operating system doesn’t let you.

And no, it’s not about the fact that your Administrator user account doesn’t have the “privileges” set accordingly. Which, by the way, means that you should use an admin account and not the Guest account when attempting these changes. If you are in need of these settings at your office at work, then you should leave it to the system administrator – it is their job to set it up for you.

As you can see, on the test machine, it was possible to set up the photo viewer default to IrfanView 32-bit – my favorite photo viewing application of all time. More than that, I’ve tested a reboot, whether the setting would change after a reboot or not. I found that the setting was left as I wanted it, unchanged. However, beware of the following possibilities which in some cases apply:

1.    The next Windows update may reset this without even informing you. Yes, that’s aggressive!

2.    For some people, after one restart or several restarts, although there is no update made, the setting is still reverted to Windows default. This is not always the case, but for those people that find themselves in this particular situation – yes, it’s not cool, it’s still an aggressive option in which you can’t decide what you want to use because the operating system won’t let you decide.

3.    If you are doing these changes at work and your System Administrator doesn’t know, they may reset it on the next scheduled routine check-up of your computer. That is why I endorse NOT doing it on your won based on “nobody will notice”.

But how do we attempt to change a setting? Let’s click for example Video player – actually the icon where it says Films & TV or another application you have on your PC.

Basically, this is the selector in Windows 10 for choosing the default application. It does say that the recommend – or better said enforced? – player is Films & TV. Let’s try changing it.
After several attempts, restarts, it is finally changed, somehow allowed by the system although, before it did not allow the change.

However, the good questions that stand unanswered:

1.    Why doesn’t it always work? As long as you have the admin privileges, you are in the right location with settings, you’ve followed these exact steps and it won’t work – why?

2.    How come it doesn’t work today, but tomorrow it may just work fine?

While there is no obvious answer to these questions, I will share my best knowledge. What I honestly believe is that there is a hidden bug somewhere with these settings, something that Microsoft either didn’t notice or doesn’t want to change. We can’t know for sure, but I know that they are trying to make things better. Maybe the not wanting to change is due to a lack of complete awareness – they may have had computers down there on which it works perfectly all the time.
Still, there is another part of these settings that could work if all else fails. To locate it, at the previous screen, you should scroll to the bottom on the right panel side (the one where it enumerates the default apps for some features). You will then notice a few extras:

Then, you need to select Set defaults by app. As soon as that is done, you will see something similar to this:

Now, I will show you this example with Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, but it’s the same way to set any of your installed applications. Remember, just select the relevant applications and set it up according to your needs.

After clicking, you will see a button Manage. Click on it!

On the test computer, you can see that the left panel shows us some file types. Windows 10 is generally good with identifying file types and describing what each one is. You can see that in my case, two relevant file types are not associated with Adobe Acrobat Reader DC by default. So then I click Choose a default!

Now, I will select the relevant application and see what happens.

As you can see, Windows 10 quickly responds and updates the default to Adobe Reader. This way, you can set any of the other installed applications (if no default was set) or change existing defaults. All these settings should be permanent, but it’s still risky that the next Windows Update could wipe them out.

The other option – Choose default applications by file type – means that you can change settings for all existing file types. Make sure that you only touch these settings if you know what you’re doing. Here’s a glimpse though, but I recommend that you solve everything by the previous method instead!!

So, these are the semi-aggressive application defaults in Windows 10 – play around, set it up!


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