Restore The Default File Association In Vista Using A Simple Registry Trick

Windows Operating System identifies the different file types and accordingly associates them with various programs depending on their extension. This is basically known as file association. Certain file associations are assigned by default in Windows when it is first installed.

If you use Windows Vista, you can set a file association through which you can associate programs to most types for file extensions. For doing so, you need to go to the Control Panel and use the option “Set Associations” or “Default Programs”(and select “Set Default Programs”).

However, Windows Vista does not have an option to restore the file association setting back to default which was originally configured in the freshly installed operating system.

Various programs including Microsoft Office Outlook, Internet Explorer, Windows Mail, Windows Calendar, Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Media Player listed under the link “Set Default Programs” come defined with their own default file extensions, protocols and types that they support.

You can easily associate a program as a default to open a file having a particular extension if the extension is supported by the program even though it is not the default/ original file association configured into Windows Vista at the time of installation.

If you know or happen to remember the default/ original file association of your system, you may go to the Control Panel and change it using the GUI (Graphical User Interface). Otherwise, you may use the below mentioned registry trick as a workaround to restore the default/ original file association in your Windows Vista:

  1. Click on the “Start” button to display the Start Menu and select “Start Search”. Type in “regedit” and press “Enter” key to open the “Registry Editor”.
  2. Check for the registry branch mentioned below:
      1> HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\[ext]
      2> [ext] in the above registry branch is actual file extension for which you wish to restore the file association. If you are not so sure, you may browse through the sub-keys under FileExts.
  3. Locate the sub-key by the name “UserChoice” and delete it.
  4. Close the Registry Editor.

Now that you have deleted the sub-key “UserChoice”, Windows Vista will use the default file associations that are in-built into the system for particular file extensions. However, you need to remember that the above mentioned trick is not perfect and may not work if other registry keys related to a particular file extension are broken or corrupt.

In such situations, you will need to restore the registry settings of the file association in order to fix it.

Related: Advanced file type association editor for Windows 7, 2008, Vista and XP.