[Fix] Cannot Add a Program to Open with List in Windows

When you right-click on a file, select “Open with”, click “choose another app” and select a program using the Browse dialog, the program may fail to appear in the “Open With” dialog.

It may appear as if nothing happened after you selected the program in the browse dialog — i.e., the Open with dialog simply ignores your selection. This is a bug that exists since the Windows XP era (at least) and remains in Windows 10 as well. This article shows how to fix the Open with problem.

Cause

Despite selecting the program’s correct .exe file, the program may now show up in the Open with menu due to the following reasons:

  1. Running multiple versions of a program. For example, Notepad++ (standard installation) and Notepad++ Portable.
  2. The program has been upgraded recently and installed in a new folder with version information in the folder name. (e.g., Avidemux 2.7)
  3. You’re using 32-bit as well as the 64-bit versions of an app. In many cases, the program’s executable name is the same, but the 64-bit apps are stored in a different Program Files folder, and the 32-bit one is stored in a different folder. Since Windows uses the path already registered in the applications registry key, you may not be able to add the other version to the Open with dialog.

    First, make sure which version (32-bit vs 64-bit) you’re going to use. Then follow one of the methods below to register the required version (32-bit vs 64-bit) to the registry. The problem wouldn’t arise in the first place if the executable file names are different, say program.exe for 32-bit and program_x64.exe for 64-bit version.

    A user was running Adobe Reader 8 from the “Windows.old” folder. After some time, he decided to move it into “Program Files”. This caused the program to not show up on the “Open with” list, didn’t let him add the program to the list. When he tried to add it, it just went back to the “Open With” window or nothing happened.

  4. Moving programs to different folders. For instance, you may have been running a program from a temporary folder path for the 1st time. The problem may occur when you move the program to another folder.
  5. Changing the drive letters.

In all of the above cases, the program’s executable file path may have been written to the registry already. When the program’s folder location or drive-letter is changed, Windows doesn’t dynamically update the application registration data in the registry. And, when you manually select the correct executable in the Open with, your selection is simply ignored, as an entry with the same program (.exe) name already exists in the registry.

[Solution] Cannot Add a Program to Open with List in Windows

If you’re not able to add a program to the Open with dialog normally, use one of these methods to fix the problem:

Note: For illustration purposes, let’s assume you’re unable to add Notepad++ to the Open with menu in Windows.

Method 1: Fix the program’s .exe file path in the registry

  1. Start the Registry Editor (regedit.exe).
  2. Go to the following key:
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications\notepad++.exe\shell\open\command
  3. Inspect and correct the .exe file path mentioned in the (default) value.
    cannot add program to open with menu in windows
  4. Exit the Registry Editor.

Method 2: Remove the program registration then use “Open with” again

Another option would be to delete the application path registration in the Windows registry. And then use “Open with” again so that the application is re-registered automatically. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the following registry key:
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications\notepad++.exe
  2. Right-click notepad++.exe and choose Delete
    cannot add program to open with menu in windows
  3. Click Yes when asked for confirmation.
  4. Exit the Registry Editor.
  5. Now, use the Open with dialog to manually add the program. You should be able to add it this time.

Method 3: Use “OpenWithAdd” utility to add a program to Open with

OpenWithAdd is a simple tool that I wrote for Windows XP/Vista and it still works fine in Windows 10. To add a program to the Open with list, all you need to do is use the browse option in the tool and select the program. Once selected the program’s .exe file name, click Register.



cannot add program to open with menu in windows [OpenWithAdd utility]

tips bulb iconTip: You can also assign a friendly name (optional) for the app. The friendly app name will show up in the Open with dialog (and the menu.)

Here you go!

cannot add program to open with menu in windows

Note: If you’re facing the problem adding Office 365 apps to Open with, simply repair Office 365. To do so, go to “Programs and Features”, right-click “Office 365”, click Change, and select “Quick Repair”. This should update the necessary paths for all the Office 365 applications in the registry automatically.

Related article: How to Remove Unwanted “Open with” menu Items in Windows


One small request: If you liked this post, please share this?

One "tiny" share from you would seriously help a lot with the growth of this blog. Some great suggestions:
  • Pin it!
  • Share it to your favorite blog + Facebook, Reddit
  • Tweet it!
So thank you so much for your support, my reader. It won't take more than 10 seconds of your time. The share buttons are right here. :)

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in Windows — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP (2003-2012) who contributes to various Windows support forums.

Leave a Comment