How do I determine proper file associations?


I often get a message telling me “This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in My Computer by clicking View and then clicking Options.” The real question is, how do I know what program is needed to look at the file? - Dan


This question was answered on March 27, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

This is one of those error messages that the Microsoft programmers didn’t bother to think through when they created it In most cases, when you get this message, your computer is telling you that it does not know what to do with the file that you have chosen to open And, of course, neither do you! Windows based systems use something called “File Associations” in order to determine the proper program that is needed to open a file when you click on it The association is determined by the file extension or the characters after the “.” in a filename (ex:filename.ext) This file association is supposed to be created during the installation of a program For instance, when you install Microsoft Word, the program notifies Windows that any files with the extension “*.doc” are to be opened with Word

So the beginning of your journey starts with identifying the file extension of the file that was sent to you A fairly extensive list of file extensions, what they represent and what popular programs can be used to open them can be found by simply doing a search at for "File Extensions".

Once you have deciphered what the file type is, you have to look for a program that is loaded on your computer that will allow you to open it Depending upon your e-mail program, when you attempt to open an attached file, you may be asked whether to Open or Save the file If you get the above message when you try to open it, then save it on your hard drive and remember where you saved it! Next, use My Computer or Windows Explorer to go to where you saved the file and hold the shift key down while you right-click on the file, which should give you a dialog box with an option to “Open with” When you choose “Open with”, a box with an alphabetical list of installed programs will appear Using the table that I have created, try to find a program that can be used to open the file based on the file extension If you want to have Windows remember this file association, be sure to place a checkmark in the box next to “Always use this program to open this type of file” and it will never bother you with this dumb question again! (for this file type)

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on March 27, 2000