This file does not have a program associated with it – what does this mean and what do I do?

This file does not have a program associated with it is a common error message when Windows doesn't know what program is used to open a file. I'll look at what that means, and step you can take.

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How can I create an association in Folder Options? I get this error message when attempting to open picture attachments on Outlook Express: “This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the Folder Options control panel.”

A file can contain anything. Under Windows (and under MS-DOS before it), the convention was established that the characters following the last period in a file name, called the file “extension”, tells you what kind of data that file contains. “.EXE”, for example, is an EXEcutable program. “.JPG” is a jpeg compressed image file, “.TXT” is a plain text file, and so on.

In addition to knowing what type of data a file contains, Windows also needs to know what program should be used to access that file.

If that information is missing, then “This file does not have a program associated with it…” is one of the possible error messages.

In email, this most commonly happens when someone sends you an attachment with data created by a program you don’t have. For example if someone were to send me a “.psd” file, when I attempt to open it, I might get this error:

This file does not have a program associated with it...

The reason? I apparently don’t have a program installed that understands what to do with a “.psd” file. As a result, I cannot open the file.

The most common way to resolve this issue is simply to install a program that understands files of that type. In most cases, when a program is installed, it also sets up the associations for all the file types that it understands. In this case, if I were to install Adobe PhotoShop, which understands “.psd” files, then I should be able to open them without a problem. Attempting to open a “.psd” file would then start up PhotoShop, which in turn would read and display the file.

Sometimes these associations between file extensions and the programs that understand them can get lost, or confused. The second most common way to resolve this is to use the application that should understand to repair the associations. If you know, for example, that you have a program that understands the file, but you’re still getting that error, there are some common approaches:

The most common way to resolve this issue is simply to install a program that understands files of that type.
  • Many applications allow you to control exactly what file extensions they are supposed to support in their options. Fire up the application that’s supposed to handle that file type, and search for its options dialog, or other settings. If you find the ability to associate the program with a particular file extension, this can resolve the problem.
  • As I mentioned, many programs set up their associations when installed. If the program offers it, in Control Panel, Add/Remove programs, find the program that’s supposed to handle this file type, and perform a “repair” install.
  • If “repair” doesn’t work, or isn’t available, then a full uninstall and re-install of the application may do it.

A good example of a “repair” that’s not at all obvious, is the solution for Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. If you want to restore the association between Windows Picture and Fax Viewer and most image files – meaning you want to view most image files using Windows Picture and Fax Viewer – then click Start, Run and type in the following cryptic
command:

regsvr32 /i
shimgvw.dll

Press OK a couple of times and things are reset. This doesn’t work for everything, but it’s an example of how many programs have the ability to reset their associations without needing to be reinstalled.

OK, what if none of that works, or for some reason you want to do things the hard way … er, by hand?

First, you need to know what program you want to use to open a particular file, and that program must already be installed on your machine.

Now, fire up Windows Explorer (right click on My Computer and click on Explore is one quick way). Click on the Tools menu and then the Folder Options item. In the resulting dialog, click on the File Types tab, and you should see something like this:

Folder Options, File Types tab

In that list, scroll down to the file type, the “extension” you want to add or modify. I’ll continue with my example and look for “psd”. It’s not on the list, so I’ll click on New, where I’m presented with this dialog:

Create New Extension dialog

Note that I’ve already typed in “psd”.

Now, all that did is create an empty entry in the list:

Folder Options, File Types tab with new entry

Once it’s in the list – or if it already was – we click on Change and … oops, we get this message:

Windows cannot open files of this type message

Since we’re doing this manually, we’ll “Select the program from a list”, and click OK. We’re then presented with a list of the installed software on your machine:

Open With dialog

In my case I happen to know that a program I have installed, Firehand Ember, will also read my “psd” files, so I click on that, make sure that “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” is checked, and press OK. Now when I try to open a “.psd” file, Firehand Ember will be launched and used to display the file.

Obviously you’ll need to choose both the correct extension and program for the problem you’re attempting to solve.

Quite often you’ll be faced with a file extension and have no clue as to what it is, or what program should be used to open it. There’s often no single answer, but a good resource to research the meaning of various file extensions is FileExt.com. There you can enter an extension and it will list all the possible meanings, including the most likely or most common use.

Why do I say there’s often no single answers? Because there’s nothing to prevent two or more different and totally unrelated programs from using the same file extension for totally different things. A great example is the “.dat” file – I count well over 20 different possibilities, and there are probably many, many more. In case like this, you’ll need to know more about what program was used to create the file before you can make a choice on how to open it.

There are 74 comments:

  1. Danile Ullman Reply

    Another, and easier, way to create associations is to single click on the file, right click, select Open With, select (or browse if necessary) to the program that reads it and check mark “Alway use this program…”

  2. May Reply

    Thank you, Leo, you answered my question perfectly! I used Google to arrive here and your information on file extensions was just what I needed to knnow>

  3. karim Reply

    i try to click on open with but it gives me the same error message, how can correct this error? thanks for your help in advance

  4. James Reply

    Hi, unfortunately one of my 2 pcs had a trojan.downloader virus which has totally transformed all my ,exe extensions to .ini I think. I managed to get rid of the virus but now I cannot open any programs with a .exe extension. I cant even get into my windows xp cd to re- install. Can you help plz?

  5. Cheryl Reply

    Trying to open a pps type. Did all the steps above, reinstalled MS PowerPoint Viewer 2003; PPS is listed in “Folder Options”. Still cannot open email with PPS attachment. Get file does not, etc. Any other help?

  6. Arthur Goodman Reply

    For weeks I had my floppy disk read well,but now when I open it up, all i get is create an association in the folder options control panel. How do I do this for the floppy disks

  7. Leo Notenboom Reply

    You need Microsoft Excel. (Although I believe the spreadsheet program in OpenOffice.org will open it as well.)

  8. Dean Reply

    I am using XP Home, as of this morning when I use the start run command to go to a website such as my on line backing I get the…..”This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the folders options control panel.”
    Is there a quick fix for this? Thanks

  9. Marika Reply

    That’s all well and good (actually very helpful in general) but what to do if you don’t know the extension, as is the case with Error Reporting? The top of the error message window reads: “http://oca.microsoft.com/resdir.aspx?sid=……” and no amount of expanding or shrinking will give a usable extension. I think I managed to see what it was once (or at least what was at the end of that line) but there was nothing like it in the File Types box. Presumably there would be something else to do to fix what’s wrong when Error Reporting gives a “This file does not have a program associated with it” message, even though it goes on to say “Create an association in Folder Options Control Panel.” Can anybody tell me what’s wrong and/or how to fix it?

  10. Crissie Reply

    I receive the same message, “This file does not have a program associated with it,” when I try to open ANY web site on IE. I’m running Windows 98 on AOL. The sites will open in the AOL browser but not IE. Please help. I don’t always want to use the AOL browser.

  11. prat Reply

    Hi,

    I’m trying to open Xml file and it shows me this this_file_does_not_have_a_program_associated with it.

    But I have an assocition, which says, XML doc can be opened with XMLeditor. Can you tell me why I still see this error msg?

  12. GILLES Reply

    cRISSIE DRAG THE FILE IN THE ODY OF EXPLORER. THIS WILL GIVE YOU THE SITE. HOWEVER IT DOES NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM WITH FILE ASSOCITION. BUT IT IS A WAY AROUND IT

  13. Nancy/Heather Reply

    Leo, In exchange for the latte I just bought you, can you please answer this one question that I have been spending two days on. If I inadvertently manually selected a wrong program (adobe) to open an XLS file how can I undo that? I now cannot open an XLS file if I have adobe installed. It will just say that adobe (who I selected “always use the selected program to open this kind of file”) cannot open that file. Thanks again. Nancy/Heather

  14. Nancy/Heather Reply

    Leo, from your you tube video and “Ask Leo! – How do I make something other than “Picture and FAX Viewer” the default for viewing pictures?”
    I was able to fix my problem. You’re wonderful. Enjoy your latte.

  15. Joe Dixon Reply

    Followed step by step, still get the same results when I try to open .pps in outlook express. MS Powerpoint viewer installed and associated with pps. Any other suggestions?
    Thanks

  16. Ed Reply

    Can’t open attached xls, doc files (and some others) with msg “this file does not have an assoc…” under Windows Mail (Vista). Of course I have both Excel and Word. I have to SAVE them to be able to open. Any help?

  17. ekajl Reply

    this excat same thing is what has happend to me but when ever I go to folder option everything is all good until I click on file types and then everything just goes away and everything I had running is gone what do I do?

  18. frank Reply

    I am getting the same error message but only for .pdf and .jpg files. I have tried all of the above solutions plus the fixes from several web sites. I can drag the attachment to the desktop and it opens there just fine.

  19. linda Reply

    Hi Leo, I am trying to help a friend, she cant open any program without going to run and typing it in. all her folder extension things dont work. any suggestions on a quick way to fix all of them?
    thanks for your time.

  20. Sheldon Reply

    This is happening to me to
    but on all of my control panel harware links
    like to my sound driver, video card and what not,
    I Can’t right click it, and the file type doesn’t display.
    I’ve been Debating whether or not I should reload XP with SP2 if no-one can help

  21. Kaitlyn Reply

    do you have the steps necessary for microsoft office 2007?

  22. CHANDRASEKHAR Reply

    dear sir,
    while i’m trying to open any URL in Internet Explorer it is showing an error msg like “This file does not have a program associated with it-create an association in folder options of contrplpanel”

    ..so plz help me to come out of this situation..
    thank you

  23. Liz Reply

    I solved this problem by “repairing” Adobe reader.

    After installing the latest version of Adobe reader I could not open the pdf files and the error message “this file does not have a program associated with it to perform this action appeared everytime, even after I created the association.
    For some reason the file uploads with errors or missing components.
    Removing and reinstalling will not fix the problem.
    This will:
    Go to your control panel
    Go to remove/add programs
    click on adobe reader (highlight)
    click “REPAIR”
    Do not run anything else while this is being done.
    Once it is done close the program & turn off your computer.
    turn it back on. The problem should be solved.
    It worked for me!!!!

  24. elena anastasiadou Reply

    I click “accept the change” at spybot.. and the message “This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the Folder Options control panel.” appears every time I try to open any program.I tried to do reintroduction of system,deinstallation of spybot or format but I couldn’t :( I don’t evencan instal any program.PLEASE help me
    PS: I can open some programs only if I have something from them(not abridgements). I mean that I can open word only if I have a saved file-text at word.
    sorry for my english.I’m from Greece
    I’m waiting for your help
    Thank you.
    Elena

  25. Pavan Reply

    Hi,
    Im facing the similar problem with all the applications. Whenever i double click them to run, above error message displayed. But, when i right click and select runas option, uncheck “protect my computer and data from unauthorized program activity” and after clicking ok, the program starts. Is there anything to do with registry settings or other options? or was it by someother virus or trojans? my host was connected to net 24×7 and im using licensed symantec antivirus corp. edition and im not receiving any alerts from it. os: xp sp2. Please help me. Waiting for your reply……

  26. Sensacion Reply

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/172223
    it worked for xp too. after a I had an issue with a trojan, had to add the value: “%1″%* to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTExefileShellOpenCommand

    —Quoted—
    Hi,
    Im facing the similar problem with all the applications. Whenever i double click them to run, above error message displayed. But, when i right click and select runas option, uncheck “protect my computer and data from unauthorized program activity” and after clicking ok, the program starts. Is there anything to do with registry settings or other options? or was it by someother virus or trojans? my host was connected to net 24×7 and im using licensed symantec antivirus corp. edition and im not receiving any alerts from it. os: xp sp2. Please help me. Waiting for your reply…… Posted by: Pavan

  27. ayck Reply

    Hi my problem is, when i click the control panel at window start menu, it give me tat problem.
    “this file does not have a program associated with it for perform…etc, create an association in the folder options control panel”

    how to create ? if this happen to control panel? thanks :D

  28. TOSIF Reply

    i get this message “this file does not have a program associated with it to perform action.create an extension in the folder option control panel” when i try open my drives c,d,e,f by double clicking on them.please give me a solution.

  29. lkm Reply

    Just wanted to say .. can’t believe I was able to fix things .. I got an email with attachments and I got ‘that’ message. I typed in search engine and got this website. I never read through everything. All I saw was “psd” so I created a new file ext. typed it in, clicked change, selected the program that I was instructed to download when I received the email with the attachments otherwise I wouldn’t have known (adobe acrobat 9) and presto! I can now open the attachments! So, thank you to Leo and his website and clear simple instruction.

  30. Mark Hill Reply

    Finally it worked! The File Options method did nothing for me. Using Add/Remove Programs, Change, Repair Install, woorked. Now I can view my pdf attachments in Outlook Express.

  31. Kristin Reply

    This doesn’t work at all(I’m not making a new file type, all of the sudden my bitmap,photoshop,gif,png,and jpeg files won’t open in their programs like they did and i have to go through the program to open them help.

  32. mahan Reply

    Hi I have this problem when I try to open my drives by double clicking on the icons in “my computer” but when I right click on them and select explore, they open!!!!! so what kind of association I need to create????

  33. katharine Steinbugl Reply

    we deleted the microsoft edition 2003 trial which expired would this have caused the problem . The file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Or did she need to update her computer

  34. mukund Reply

    i am facing this problem when i am trying to open inter explorer don know wat to do ??

  35. Eddy Reply

    Hi,
    I get the no association message when opening a file from an email in MS live mail. the files have an association, I redid it, unistalled the programs EG: VLC and WMP, same problem, the file open if I save them.

    Thanks
    Eddy

  36. ranatel Reply

    please help!!!!!I get this message “this file does not have a program associated with it to perform action.create an extension in the folder option control panel” when i try open my drives c,d by double clicking on them.please give me a solution.

  37. Paul Reply

    Certain file extensions won’t open app. “no program associated” error. In particular HTML is set to ope with Firefox yet double clicking .html files gives the association error. When reset to default it will open with IE. I can edit it in the control panel to open with Firefox, however then I go back to the same error. The icon is changed to the firefox icon but FFox won’t open.

  38. Annie Reply

    My solution: Right click on email attachment; click on “save as”…; then locate in documents; double-click on icon and it opens!

  39. shrey Reply

    my windows cant open any file………of any extention….exe .reg any file!!! it just says tht windows doesnt know which software created it!!please help!!

  40. vanna Reply

    may i open all program. when i try to open file exe on windows xp. the program alway ask me “This file does not have a program associated with it is a common error message when Windows doesn’t know what program is used to open a file.” how can i open all file on my computer. Please help me! Thank you.

  41. Michele Reply

    I deleted Mozilla firefox and want to reinstall, but get this message. I don’t know how to fix this problem in the control panel, folders option???

  42. Phil Reply

    I have this error popping up every time I start my computer. I downloaded an excel spreadsheet pulled some information off of it then deleted it. Is there a way I can make this pop up stop coming up?

  43. yasso Reply

    im not able to open any link in my email
    windows live inbox,
    i recieve this when i click any link
    (file doesnt have a program associated with it for performing this action. create an association in the folder options control panel)

  44. jakas166 Reply

    WHEN I GO TO THE COMMAND THAT SAYS “OPEN WITH..” IN ANY FILE, I GET THIS TEXT “There is no program associated with this file to perform the action.
    Create an association in control panel “definition correlations.”
    THE PROBLEM IS THAT 2 DAYS AGO THE COMMAND WORKS PERFECTLY .I TRIED TO DO RESTORE SYSTEM AND THE PROBLEM REMAINS.I HAVE DONE ALL THE STEPS THAT WIN TOLD ME ..CONTROL PANEL…..

  45. muneer Reply

    Even after following all the above, still I’m unable to get over this problem!

  46. V Lemon Reply

    I had Vista removed and had Windows 7 Professional Edition installed. I see from your screen shots that you likely were using XP. Windows 7 FOLDERS OPTIONS does not have a FILE TYPE Tab or any way there, to CREATE A NEW EXTENSION. I looked for .torrent in my ASSOCIATED FILE LIST and it is not listed, which probably explains why I get the error message about ‘unknown file type’….’find program online to open’. Going online gets me nowhere, can you advise on what can be done in Windows 7 to ADD an extension to my list. I also have no idea what program my computer would have that recognizes them…when you go to the site, it just normally works?? I appreciate your help and ideas.

  47. Tracy Reply

    Please, please help me. I am getting that msg, about program doesn’t have a file association…but it is with my PDF files. I didn’t used to have this issue, but Dell told me I had a virus (said it wasn’t a bad one) but still. Now my PDF’s won’t open. I tried to go into control panel-default programs-assoc a file type or protocol with a program and clicked on the Adobe files, but still I can’t open it. It appears a lot of my files current default is unknown. Can I fix this? Or do I have to uninstall everything and reinstall all my driver, etc? This is what Dell told me I would have to do. Or pay $130 to have them fix it. I don’t know what to do!

    Desperate!

  48. Tracy Reply

    Oh I guess I should let you know I am on Vista. Thanks again.

    Still Desperate!

  49. Daniel Reply

    i have windows 7 home premium and im having problems with windows explorer..not internet explorer………. when i open windows explorer a window opens saying ” this file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Please intall a program or, if one is already installed, create an association in the default programs control panel”
    please can anybody help me ……thanks

  50. carlos Reply

    when i try to open ANY program on my computer i get the following message: his file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. create an association in the set associations control panel.

  51. Erin Reply

    I’m with Carlos’ April 5th comment about ANY application. Most of the comments have been about how to associate new apps through File Options. Pretty simple. But why does this same message display, at random, for extensions that have already been on my system for years? For me it is happening when I open an application not necessarily an actual file. Although I have received many of these errors showing different files names, one example is “Docements..ErinLocal..TempHSS2B.exe”. I know this file is associated with games, but I don’t know why it would screw everything else up. why would .exe not have an association, or is it something else that has to do with the HSS2B app? Any thoughts would be MUCH appreciated.

  52. kj Reply

    windows 7 installed ok yesterday. today i tried to get skype and skypemate organized and then all the programs ended up with skype logo. tried to undo..finally reinstalled windows 7 but didn’t fix and now most programs have an arrow and”this file does not have an asociation..etc” HELP!

  53. Sam Winer Reply

    when I get a picture (jpeg) from an iphone, it gives me the error message, above. when I send from my iphone, it comes in and outlook express opens it. how do I fix?

  54. darron Reply

    I also have the same problem on one of my laptops running vista. I can manage to get a few programs to open (such as firefox) by right-clicking and running as administrator but i still need to fix the problem. sick of getting “This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the Set Associations control panel” from everything i click on! if anyone finds a solution please post here or even better, Leo post an answer and guide for this problem that seems to stump a lot of people.

  55. kevin Reply

    dude i got a problem i guess similar but in this case i cant open exe or lnk files in my computer do you know what can i do?

  56. Mark Campbell Reply

    I have a file that is listed as “maurice caddell’s Writings which comes up with the statement, “this file does not have a program associated with it—-
    Now this file had a list of quite a few stories which I had written over the years, and I now find that I can not open it because of the above-mentioned response. Can you help me re-open this file. I’ve tried all the other suggestions on the page up above, all to no avail. Thank you. Maurice

  57. Tommy Reply

    I have problem with my Windows 7 ultimate. Where I cannot open drive c d e with double click. and have message ” This File does not program associated with it for performing this action. Please install a program or, if one is already installed, create an association in the Default Program control panel.”
    1. I guess a virus and but i have anti virus uptodate. and I was try other anti viruss but no viruss found
    2. I guess Bitlocker but i don’t use it
    some one can help me plz?…

  58. Dell Reply

    Right out of the blue, so it seems, I’ve got a similar problem and haven’t seen a fix yet that works. I get this error message for almost everything…My Documents, My pictures, all of the shortcuts on my Desktop, etc. I’ve tried numerous suggested “fixes” but none of them has worked. I hate to say it but I upgraded to IE 8 just before this problem first arose. I hate to think that’s what caused it, but maybe….

  59. Matt Reply

    I am suddenly getting the “This file does not have a program associated with it …” error message when I try to open a common folder. This is true for any folder on any drive (fixed or removable). I can open the folder by right clicking/selecting “open”, but the usual double-clicking the folder method no longer works. Any ideas?

  60. Connie Cain Reply

    Im just trying to install a digital camera and keep getting the association file message…Im pretty pc dumb so I think I just wasted my $ on a camera….:(

  61. Kristen Reply

    I too am having the same identical problem as Matt (posted comment on January 13, 2011 5:23 PM) I am suddenly getting the “This file does not have a program associated with it …” error message when I try to open a common folder. This is true for any folder on any drive (fixed or removable). I can open the folder by right clicking/selecting “open”, but the usual double-clicking the folder method no longer works.

    Interestingly enough this problem started after Windows did an update on my computer today. How do I fix this? Any help is most appreciated.

  62. alex Reply

    i’ve got the same problem as Matt and Kristen , also after updating my windows

    i hope microsoft gets a fix for this soon

  63. Marshy Reply

    I have three computers in the house all on windows 7 and all have got the same problem after microsoft updates. It also happens on the modules installer for the new IE9 and on update KB2454826 Looks like Microsoft have boobed again

  64. derek Reply

    Cheers for your sujestions followed your instructions and it is all sorted no further problems.

    Again thanks
    regards derek

  65. Brad Reply

    OE “This file does not have a program associated with it”
    ** For PPS file **

    Manual fix
    Goto Folder Options, select the File Types tab.
    Scroll down and locate PPS (Microsoft PowerPoint Slide Show)
    Click Advanced
    Click the New button
    Type Open in the the Action: text box
    In the “Application used to perform action”, type (For PowerPoint Viewer 2007)(including quote marks)

    “C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12pptview.exe” “%1″

    Uncheck the Use DDE box
    Click OK, OK
    Close the Folder Options dialog

  66. Howard Marcus Reply

    I’m getting message that this program does not have a program…I have read the article several times with the hope that I missed something. As it stands, I cannot carry out any of the suggestions since I get the same message when trying to download fix it programs.

  67. Jim K. Reply

    When I open my Control Panel, and click on the folder option icon, it will not open, so how do I create a program associated with it, if it will not open? I need to open an attachment that came with an email that was sent to me, and it gives me this reason why it will not open.

  68. Amelia Reply

    Everytime I tried to play a CD, DVD or even inserted a USB these message keeps appearing “windows media player cannot play the file because the required video codec is not installed”.

  69. Eddie Reply

    Somebody send an email with a web link included. I click on the “blue” text and instead of going to the website, I get the “THis file does not have a program associated with it”. I go to Control Panel, Default Programs, and I don’t know which programs goes with what. HELP!

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