File Type Associations and Icons — How to Change or Fix Them

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File type associations can be a problem for Windows users. This is especially true for those who install more than one program to handle the same file types.

The Problem

As an example, when you install a media player, it usually associates its own executable program with all the media file types it is able to play back. Such media players also come with sets of their own icons for media files. And they associate these icons with the media file types, too.

So when you open Windows Explorer or a similar tool such as MultiCommander, you will see that media player’s icons next to the media files that it is able to play back. This is a neat and useful feature, as long as it works.

When you install another media player, it might happen that it will change the file type and icon associations. This might happen without the new program ever asking the user for consent. Or it might happen, because the user automatically clicked Next in the install process and didn’t realize that one of the things he consented to was changing the icon and file type associations.

It is not very user-friendly of software authors to do these things, but they do happen nevertheless.

Check Your File Type Associations

Control Panel > Default Programs

Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs

To check all the file types that have been registered in your Windows, go to Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Set Associations.

This will provide you with a list of all file types available on your system. The list is compiled from your Windows’ registry database.

Control Panel > Set

Set Program Associations

The list contains the names of all file types, their descriptions, and the programs that are currently set to open those file types. At the bottom of the list, you will find all the protocols (such as FTP, HTTP, etc.) that you have installed, too.

You can also check your file type associations the other way around — by listing the default programs.

To do so, go to Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Set Default Programs.

Set Default Programs

Set Default Programs

To automatically set all the default associations contained in a program, select that program in the left pane of the window and then click Set this program as default.

Set defaults for a program

Set defaults for a program

And to manually select which associations contained in a program to use, again select that program and then click Choose defaults for this program.

Set associations for Mozilla Firefox

Set associations for Mozilla Firefox

When you are done selecting the file extensions and protocols you wish to associate with that program, click Save.

Change File Association Settings via Control Panel

In case you want to change an association of a file type with a program, you need to return to Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Set Associations and click on the Change program… button.

Associate a file type or protocol with a specific program

Associate a file type or protocol with a specific program

In the pop-up window, you can select or browse for the program you want to use to open that specific file type.

Choose program you want to use to open this file

Choose program you want to use to open this file

When you are done, click OK to save your selections.

Fix File Association Settings via External Program

However, the above method doesn’t allow you to change the icons associated with the file types. So, even though you are able to make VLC Media Player to launch when you double-click an AVI file, you can’t change the previous default program’s icon for the AVI file type.

Thankfully, there is an external program that solves exactly this problem.

It is called Default Programs Editor and it is completely free and portable.

Default Programs Editor allows you to add and display your own icons with any registered file types.

To do so, launch Default Programs Editor and click File Type Settings.

Default Programs Editor — File Type Settings

Default Programs Editor — File Type Settings

In the next window, click Icon.

Default Programs Editor — Icon

Default Programs Editor — Icon

Then select a file type that you want to change its icon and click on the Next button.

Default Programs Editor — Select a file type to change

Default Programs Editor — Select a file type to change

And, finally, browse to the location of a new icon for the file type you selected to update.

Default Programs Editor — Select an icon for file type

Default Programs Editor — Select an icon for file type

When you are done, click on the Save Icon button.

Create Your Own Icons to Associate with File Types

You can create your own icons or you can download icons or icon sets from the internet.

Recently, I was looking for icons to associate with VLC Media Player and I found some really cool ones like these:

If you create your own icon image or customize image files you find online, you can use convertico.com to convert those image files of yours to true icon files with the .ico extension.

VLC Media Player custom icon image

VLC Media Player custom icon image

All that’s left is to download and unpack the icons that ConvertICO generated and then associate them with your file types using Default Programs Editor.

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