What Are The Signs? If you try to open a program you are confronted with an ‘Open With’ window which asks you to choose which program to use – to open the program that you are trying to open… The cause of the problem is that the file association of program files (also called ‘.exe’ files) has been damaged or changed by a virus.
This problem affects .exe files such as Microsoft Word and your antivirus program etc. You may still be able to open certain features of Windows (e.g. Control Panel) because these are not .exe files so are unaffected.
.Exe files must be associated with specific commands so that Windows knows exactly how to open them – to fix this problem you therefore need to change the damaged file associations back to what they should be.
How To Fix It – To resolve this manually, you need to make the following 2 changes to the Windows registry to reset the .exe association back to the correct values. There is an automated fix as an alternative described lower down.
Note: The registry is a very important database containing Windows configuration settings – before editing it you should try to create a new System Restore Point in case you need to revert back to before the changes.
- Hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press R to open the Run command.
- In the Run command window type the word regedit and press OK to open the Registry Editor.
Tip: Navigate through the Registry Editor by opening the folders and subfolders in the left panel (double click to open or click on the + sign to open subfolders and the – sign to close them).
- Navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.exe
- In the right hand panel, set the value of Default to exefile – do this by double clicking Default and then typing exefile in the Value Data box then clicking OK.
- Now navigate further down to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shell\open\command
- Set the value of Default to
Note: Include the ” marks and ensure there is a space in between the second ” and the %*
Now close the Registry Editor and restart your computer – programs should now open up as normal
Alternative – Automated Fix
If you have difficulty following the manual steps above, antivirus company Kaspersky have produced an automated fix to resolve the problem – download CleanAutoRun.exe from here.
Now rename the file from CleanAutoRun.exe to CleanAutoRun.com (because most .exe program files are blocked from opening) and double click the file to run it – after the utility window appears on the screen, press any button to finish the process. Restart your computer and programs should now open up as normal.
Tip: if you find that .com files are also blocked from opening, try renaming the file with a .pif or .scr extension – you can also try renaming it to iexplore.exe or userinit.exe or winlogon.exe as these specific Windows files usually bypass any blocks that the virus made.
Check For Viruses That May Have Caused This Problem
Now that you can open program files again, check for any remaining viruses to ensure the problem does not reoccur – see How To Remove Viruses.