Change Your Windows 7 Program Defaults

November 30, 2010, By Christian Cawley

If you’ve downloaded numerous mail clients or web browsers, at some point you will have received a message that reads something along the lines of:

“X is not your default web browser. Would you like to set X as your default web browser”

…with a Yes/No dialogue box and a tick box reading “Don’t ask me again.”

This can become a bit irritating over time, and will happen whenever you open the application that Windows 7 recognises as the non-default for that file type or purpose. Windows has to associate specific applications with specific tasks in order to run correctly – if there was no web browser associated with HTML files, whenever a link in an email was clicked you wouldn’t see a web page.

Windows 7 Program Access and Defaults

So the message above is a necessary evil when using multiple instances of the same sort of application. However changing your default applications and programs in Windows 7 can stop this from becoming a repetitive issue, and is an extremely straightforward task.

How to Set Default Programs in Windows 7

Changing the default program for a specific task in Windows 7 is easy.

Go to Start > Default Programs > Set your default programs and wait for the list to load; the length of time this takes will depend on what applications you have installed.

In the next screen, you will see a list of programs on the left-hand side and by selecting one of these you will see information about whether this program has been setup as a default choice or not.

For instance if you were using Mozilla Firefox as your default browser and wanted to switch back to Internet Explorer, you would select Mozilla Firefox in the list to check the status, then select Internet Explorer to confirm what the current number of default settings applied to it were. Finally you would select Set this program as default in order to set Internet Explorer as the default browser.

Alternatively, if you had less stringent requirements you could simply select an application and use the Choose defaults for this program button to decide which file types will open it. In the case of Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, you might configure your defaults so that HTTPS pages are accessed via Firefox and HTTP pages are opened in Internet Explorer.

Set Program Access and Defaults

In addition to the standard default applications file association settings above, you can also instruct Windows 7 to use specific programs for specific tasks. This is done via Start > Default Programs > Set program access and computer defaults and can be used to set non-Microsoft programs as defaults as well as remove them.

For instance in order to block Internet Explorer from opening, you would need to choose the Custom section and under Choose a default web browser clear the Enable access to this program tick box next to Internet Explorer. The Program Access and Defaults screen deals purely with Microsoft applications and those considered comparative replacements, so you will also find reference to mail clients, media players, chat clients and Java virtual machines. The default settings for all of these can be adjusted in this screen.

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