Every file on your computer has a program that opens it. If the software is not installed, your system will notify you and ask you for instructions on what software you should try to use to open it. Windows, macOS, and other platforms map certain file extensions to programs by default. If there is no software, the files will not open.
This is why Microsoft Word opens when you try to open a DOCX file if you have Microsoft Office installed. If you prefer to open this file in another program instead, such as LibreOffice, you need to change the default program in Windows 10 or macOS for that file type.
How to change the default program in Windows 10
Changing file associations in Windows 10 is pretty easy, and there are several ways to do it.
- If you want to change the default program in Windows 10 and you have a file with the same file format on your disk, you can easily change the application that opens it by right-clicking the file in Windows Explorer (or the desktop) by hovering over the Open With menu and clicking Choose another application option.
- In the window How do you want to open this file? A selection window, Windows will automatically try to identify the software you have installed that can work with this file. For a complete list of the software installed on your computer, click the More Apps button at the bottom of the list, or search for an app in the Microsoft Store to find software that can open it in the Microsoft Store.
- Once you have selected the correct software, click to check the “Always use this application to open” checkbox to ensure that the software you choose always opens this file type. Click OK to open the file and change the default Windows program for this file type to the application of your choice.
Some types of software, such as web browsers, are usually not used to open files on your computer, making it difficult to use the above method to change the default program. You can also find a way to change multiple file types at the same time, which you can do, for example, if you change the default media player on your PC.
In both cases, you will need to change the default program for your file or web protocol in the Windows settings menu instead.
- To do this, right-click the Windows Start menu and click Option Settings. In the settings menu, select Apps Default Apps. This will display a list of some of the most common programs you can use, such as your web browser or email client
- To change any of them, click one of the options and select a replacement. For example, by clicking the web browser option, you will be able to choose Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, or a third-party browser that you may have installed, such as Google Chrome You can also click Find an App in Microsoft Store to find an alternative to install.
- However, only a few possible programs are listed here. To change all the default programs that Windows uses according to their file type, click the Select Default Applications by File Type option in the Default Applications menu. Or click “Select default applications by protocol” to, for example, change associations for a web URL.
- Windows will display a long list of known file types in the next menu. To change any of these, click a known option for that type and select it from the list that appears on the Select Application menu. If no existing default app is applied, click Select default app and select the option you want. For file types for which no known software is installed, click Find an app in Microsoft Store to search for possible alternatives.
- Any changes you make will be applied immediately. If you need to reset these program default settings later, return to the default applications menu and click the Reset button.
How to change the default program in macOS
If you want to change the default program on Mac, you will need the file in the file format you want to open.
- First, open the Finder app and find the location of your file. To change the file association for this file type, right-click the file and choose Open With Other.
- Finder will ask you to select the application you want to use to open this file. Select the appropriate application from the Applications menu, then click to select the Always open with check box to ensure that you change the default program on Mac to this application. Click “Open” to open the file and save the selected program as the default option to open this file type in the process.
- You can also change this setting by right-clicking the file in the Finder and choosing the Get Info option.
- In your file information window, click to open the Open With subcategory. From here, you can select a new application to open files of the same type. Select an alternative application from the menu, then click the Replace All button to apply the change to all files with the same file type.
- The above methods will work for almost all applications and file types, but you will need to use a different method to change the default web browser on macOS. To do this, click the Apple menu icon in the upper left corner of the menu bar, then click the System Preferences option.
- In System Preferences, select General. From the General menu, select an alternative web browser from the Default Web Browser drop-down menu. Any changes you make will be applied immediately.
Replacing old software on Windows and macOS
If you want to change the default program in Windows 10 or macOS, you will need installed replacement software. You can replace outdated paid software with newer, more modern open source software alternatives that cost you nothing to install or use.
Replacing older software with macOS is a little more difficult, as you may find that there are simply no equivalents to the software you enjoy using, especially if you are moving from Windows. If you are having problems, you may need to allow installation of unverified applications, but make sure you only install software from sources you trust.