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How to Set Default Programs in Windows 10 (2 Methods)

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Introduction

This guide demos 2 methods to set default programs in Windows 10.

As an example, you may open an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) document and it opens in a browser. Also, sometimes Excel (.xls) files may open with Adobe! This can be frustrating.

This guide will resolve this for you.

Options to Set Default Programs in Windows 10

There are two methods (discussed in this guide) to set default programs in Windows 10:

  • From Default Apps Settings
  • With Group Policy
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1
Set Default Programs in Windows 10 From Default Apps Settings

The first method to set default programs in Windows 10 is from Settings.

Here are the steps:

  • Right-click Windows 10 start menu. Then click Settings.
Set Default Programs in Windows 10 From Default Apps Settings
  • At Windows Settings, locate and click Apps.
Set Default Programs in Windows 10 From Default Apps Settings
  • When Apps & features settings opens, click Default apps.
Set Default Programs in Windows 10 From Default Apps Settings
  • To change the default app for any of the programs listed, click on the program. For instance to set default app for Email, click on it.
Set Default Programs in Windows 10 From Default Apps Settings
  • Then select the app you want to open the program (in this instance Email) by default.
Set Default Programs in Windows 10 From Default Apps Settings

If the app you want to use as default is not listed, you could select Look for an app in the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft Store will open apps suitable to open the program. Select one, install it and then use it as your default app for the specific program.

You can also set default app by file type.

  • To do this, scroll down the Default apps settings page. Then click Default apps by file type.
  • Then locate the file extension you want to change default app for and click on it. For example, to change the default app for .PDF (PDF files), click on the current default app, Microsoft Edge.
  • Select another app from the available list.

2
Set Default Programs in Windows 10 with Group Policy

Another method to set default programs in Windows 10 is via GPO. This method is for Windows Administrators that want to set enterprise-wide default programs.

Here are the high-level tasks for this method:

  1. Create a new GPO
  2. Link the GPO to an AD container
  3. Configure GPO to set default programs

For this guide I will not cover the details of the first 2 tasks. I will demo the third – Configure GPO to set default programs in Windows 10.

For the first two tasks, click on the links for steps to complete the tasks.

Here are the detailed steps for the third task:

  • Login to a Domain Controller and open Server Manager.
If you Enabled RSAT for Active Directory in Windows 10 you should be able to perform this task from your Windows 10 PC.
  • From Server Manager, click Tools. Then select Group Policy Management.
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  • From Group Policy Management editor, beneath User Configuration expand Preference. Finally, expand Control Panel Settings.
  • Under Control Panel Settings right-click Folder Options. Then point to New. Then select Open With.
  • At the New Open With Properties window, enter a file extension – for example .xls for Excel. Then enter the full path to the program. Finally, check the Set as default box.
When specifying the file path, keep in mind that program paths may be different for x86 and x64 PCs. To avoid errors it may be best to use the %ProgramFilesDir% variable.
To read more about these settings click Configure an Open With Item.

Conclusion

These are the 2 options available to set default programs in Windows 10.

As I said earlier, the second method is suitable for Windows admins that wish to set default program for so many users or computers at the same time.

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