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Changing a File Association, Repairing broken File Associations


You doubleclick a document file and the wrong program opens, or the file opens in an incorrect mode (ie, a PowerPoint Show file opens in PowerPoint Edit mode), or your PowerPoint files have the wrong icon. Or you get a message explaining something about how Windows doesn't know what to do with this type of file.

Windows uses the file's extension (the .XXX part at the end of the file name) to determine what type of file it is. For example, .PPT and .PPTX files are PowerPoint presentations, .PDFs are Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format files and so on.

Windows also uses the file's extension to determine what program to open when you doubleclick a file of that type.
The combination of Extension + File Type + Program to use when opening a file type is called an association. Windows "associates" a file of a certain extension with a program.

In some cases, the file association tells Windows "When the user doubleclicks one of these files, open this program with a special set of instructions." For example, the file associations for PowerPoint PPS and PPSX files tell Windows to open the file the user clicked in PowerPoint and to go right into slideshow view. That's why these "PowerPoint Show" files start a slideshow directly without the user having to do anything special.

But sometimes the file associations can get changed or corrupted or other programs take over the file associations for a particular type of file. The suggestions below show you how to fix the problem by repairing the file associations.


Problems viewing PowerPoint files in Outlook or Outlook Express

If you're trying to view a PowerPoint file you received as an email attachment in Outlook or Outlook Express AND you have the free PowerPoint 2003 Viewer (but not PowerPoint) installed AND you have Windows XP SP2 (or higher) and see a message like

This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this 
action. Create an association in the Folder Options control panel. 

This can occur if you're using Outlook Express under Windows XP Service Pack 2 and have only the free PowerPoint Viewer (not PowerPoint itself) installed.

Shyam Pillai's PowerPoint Viewer Registry Fix allows you to open presentations directly from within Outlook Express

Problem: double-clicking a PowerPoint file's icon doesn't work

You double-click the icon for a PowerPoint file and:

Try "re-registering" PowerPoint.

If you have PowerPoint 2000 or later, you can run Detect and Repair instead of messing with file paths. It takes a bit longer but does a more thorough job of repairing broken file associations. Start PowerPoint and choose Help, Detect and Repair from the main menu. Follow the instructions from there.

Manually repairing file associations

You'll need to be able to view file extensons in Windows Explorer to follow the instructions below. If you don't see file extensions, do the steps in Improving the view in Windows Explorer then come on back here for the rest.

First, start Windows Explorer (right-click Start, click Explore)
Browse to locate a file of the type you're having problems with.

The next steps will depend on the version of Windows you have.

Windows XP/XP Home:

Other Windows versions:

You can also get to the root of the problem by editing the Open action for the file association directly:


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Changing a File Association, Repairing broken File Associations
Last update 20 June, 2011