How To Fix Programs And Exe File Not Opening After Virus

How to fix programs and Exe file not opening – usually after a virus attack. This problem can occur in all versions of Windows – from Windows 10 right back to XP.

A common problem I see is when all programs cannot be opened – typically this problem is caused by a virus (to prevent you from running programs to remove it) but it could also be caused by a faulty program or installation.

Symptoms Of Exe File Not Opening

If you try to open any 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 or ‘.exe’ files) has been damaged or modified.

This problem will affect all exe files – programs such as Microsoft Word or your antivirus program etc. However 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 or missing file associations back to what they should be.

How To Fix Program Files Not Opening

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 in the next section.

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.

  • Click the Start button and type the word regedit into the search box, then press Enter to open the Registry Editor (if prompted, click Yes to allow the program to run)

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 on Default and then typing exefile into the Value Data box then clicking OK as shown in the example below:

exe file not opening

  • Now navigate further down Registry Editor to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shell\open\command
  • Set the value of Default to "%1" %* as shown in the example below:

Note: Include the quotation marks and ensure there is a space in between the second ” and the %*

program file not opening

Now close the Registry Editor and restart your computer – programs should now open up as normal :-)

Alternative – CleanAutoRun 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 (because your .exe program files are currently 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 to a .pif or .scr extension instead – if those are both blocked too, rename 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.

1 thought on “How To Fix Programs And Exe File Not Opening After Virus”

  1. Many thanks.
    It worked
    After months of tearing my hair out and reinstalling the editing program, your solution worked.
    One click of clean auto run after virus clean and problem solved.
    Many thanks for the info

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