Windows

Remove applications from the Open With List in Windows Explorer

Sometimes your Windows Explorer's Open With list can get cluttered with applications that don't match the file they are associated with. Mark Kaelin shows you how to fix that.
During the normal course of activity, the Open With List associated with a particular file type in Windows Explorer can get cluttered with applications that really don't apply (Figure A). Most of the time we ignore these extra entries, but you can remove them with a simple registry edit. A clean Windows Explorer is a happy Windows Explorer.

Figure A

Opening a PDF file with Notepad is not useful -- let's remove it.
This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.
Note: This Quick Tip involves an edit of the Windows Registry file. This file is vital to the operation of the Windows operating system and could render your system inoperable if corrupted. Back up the file before you perform any edits.

This Quick Tip is shown using Windows 7, but the technique should be similar for Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Remove associations

First, start the Regedit application by opening the Start menu and typing regedit in the search box. Click on the regedit.exe file in the resulting list and answer any UAC prompts.

Navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \Software \Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\

Then scroll down to the file type extension that you would like to edit. In our example, that would be the .pdf entry, shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Edit the .pdf file extension.
Click on the OpenWithList folder to reveal the various applications designated as applicable to that particular file type extension, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

These are the applicable applications for the file type extension.
Right-click on the offending key entry you would like to remove from the OpenWithList and then click the Delete menu item. In our example, that would be NOTEPAD.EXE (Figure D).

Figure D

Right-click the Notepad entry and click Delete.
You will get an ominous sounding warning dialog box (Figure E) warning you about deleting keys in the Windows Registry file. But you backed up your file, so this should not concern you -- right? Click Yes.

Figure E

Click Yes to confirm you want that key deleted.
Stay on top of the latest Microsoft Windows tips and tricks with TechRepublic's Windows Desktop newsletter, delivered every Monday and Thursday.
Close Regedit to complete the process. Now, the next time you look at the Open With menu entry for PDF files you will not see Notepad as a choice (Figure F).

Figure F

Notepad doesn't appear in the Open With List for .pdf files anymore.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

11 comments
Jason Mier
Jason Mier

Each program you use is added to the Open With list for that file type, even if the program you are using is unable to open the selected file type. hire a programmers

Larry Huisingh
Larry Huisingh

Now, if you have 3 or more associated programs for a particular extension and you want to delete one of those in the middle of the list, do you have to rename the keys so they are all sequentially in alphabetical order? For example, if you delete key "B" do you have to rename "C" to "B"?

Realvdude
Realvdude

I definitely fall into the "usually ignore" category, and after reading this, I went "oh duh why don't I just clean that up."

tnorman
tnorman

That is great to reduce the clutter, but I have a problem that seems to be almost opposite of this one. I have files that don't seem to have the proper association with the application it is supposed to have. Even if I browse to find the application and click on it, it doesn't show up in the "open with" list and neither will it open with the app I selected? Anyone know what is going on with that?

allanrockwell
allanrockwell

One may use OpenWithView by Nirsoft.net. Then you might have look at ShellExView...

HACristian
HACristian

I had this problem for items with no file extension. What I did was remeve the unwanted applications from [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications\ I did a backup and saved it just in case, but as of yet have not run into any problems, and the removed applications are still available, they are just not present on the list. This was in XP btw.

Odetta 4
Odetta 4

Thanks. Always like receiving a more obscure how-to..

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you seen instances where the Open With List was cluttered by non-applicable applications?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I didn't try it, but I don't think that would be necessary. The a,b,c is just to specify the order they appear in the list. Now, if you were to add an application to the file type it would likely fill in the missing letter. So if you had a, c it would now be a, b, c. and not a, c, d.

John J.
John J.

That will expose a File Types tab and on that tab you will see a list of file extensions and their associations. You should be able to add the missing apps there.

procommtech8128
procommtech8128

The Discussion does not specify which OS is it in regards to. I'm assuming that its windows in general. It would've been nice to mention the particular OS.