Software

How to tap into the benefits of Windows 10's Default Programs tool

The Default Programs tool is often underused or overlooked. Learn how to take advantage of all the configuration settings it offers.

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    While troubleshooting an issue in Windows 10, I was attempting to open Device Manager and accidentally clicked Default Programs. After looking around I realized that this tool has a lot more to offer than options for changing your default programs. My main experience with the Default Programs tool had been to set Chrome as the default browser on my daughters' Windows 10 laptops, because that is the browser of choice for the school system. However, this time around, I discovered it contains several additional features. Let's take a closer look the Default Programs tool.

    Launching Default Programs

    You'll find the Default Programs tool quickly by clicking the Start button and typing Default in the Start Search box. Then select the second item in the results, as shown in Figure A, to launch the Control Panel version. If you select the first item, you end up in the Settings version and will need to scroll to the bottom of the screen, where you'll find and select the Set Defaults By App command.

    Figure A

    Figure A
    To launch the Control Panel version of Default Programs, choose the second item.

    The Default Programs tool, shown in Figure B, offers four options for configuring how Windows 10 works with desktop programs:

    • Set Your Default Programs
    • Associate A File Type Or Protocol With A Program
    • Change AutoPlay Settings
    • Set Program Access And Computer Defaults

    Figure B

    Figure B
    The Default Programs tool provides four ways to configure your default program options.

    Setting default programs

    When you select the Set Your Default Programs option, you'll see a window that lists all the desktop programs and Windows Store apps you have installed in Windows 10. Select a program, and you'll see a description of the program, along with information that tells you how many of the default options are associated with it, as shown in Figure C. You'll also find commands for setting the program as the default and choosing the file types or protocols that will be associated with it.

    Figure C

    Figure C
    You can choose which program you want to be the default in your user profile.

    Note: The options you set in this part of the Default Programs tool apply only to your user account. They won't affect other user accounts on the computer.

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    File type associations

    The Associate A File Type Or Protocol With A Specific Program window, shown in Figure D, makes it easy to change file type associations. All you have to do is select a file extension and click the Change Program button. Then, when the dialog box appears, as shown in Figure E, just select the program.

    Figure D

    Figure D
    Windows 10 makes it easy to configure file type associations.

    Figure E

    Figure E
    This dialog box will show you all the programs capable of opening a specific file type.

    AutoPlay settings

    When you insert a CD, DVD, USB flash drive, or other removable media, AutoPlay prompts you to use the application associated with the files on the media. To take control of this behavior, choose Change AutoPlay Settings to open the dialog box shown in Figure F. Here, you can configure the program you want AutoPlay to launch when you insert the device or media. You can also disable AutoPlay completely.

    Figure F

    Figure F
    You can configure AutoPlay by choosing the desired options in this dialog box.

    Program Access And Computer Defaults

    Choosing Set Program Access And Computer Defaults will open the window shown in Figure G. You can use these options to set the defaults for all the main programs in Windows 10.

    Figure G

    Figure G
    Use these options to set the defaults for the main programs in Windows 10.

    What's your take?

    Have you explored the features offered by the Default Programs tool? What tasks have you performed using it? Share your experiences and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.

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    About Greg Shultz

    Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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