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[Fix] .EXE Files Open in Notepad or Any Other Application when Double-clicked

Summary: Double-clicking .exe or .lnk (shortcut) files may open Notepad or any other application, displaying junk characters.

Did you accidentally use the Default Programs or Open With dialog to associate .exe file types with some application like Notepad? This causes every program to open in that chosen application. Unfortunately, Windows provides no option to reset the .exe file associations. You need to fix the association settings using a .reg file or script.

After incorrectly associating .exe files using Notepad, Notepad opens every time when a .exe file is double-clicked. Here is an example:

Chrome’s executable file opened in Notepad when Chrome icon was double-clicked
By default, the Open with option won’t appear in the context menu for executable files. The problem may have happened after the user employed a registry tweak which adds “Open with…” to the context menu for all file types. Despite this problem, you should be able to launch applications by double-clicking on the data files. For example, you should still be able to launch Microsoft Word application by double-clicking on a .doc or .docx file, but not by running winword.exe directly or clicking the Word program shortcut.

[Solution] .EXE Files Open in Notepad when Double-clicked

To fix the problem where .exe files open with Notepad of any other program, delete the UserChoice registry key. This has to be done using a REG file or a script, as trying to launch regedit.exe directly would cause the same problem. Follow these steps:

  1. Download exefix_cu.reg, and save it to Desktop.
  2. Right-click on the REG file and choose Merge.

    The .REG file clears the following key, which shouldn’t exist for .exe files.

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.exe\UserChoice

When you use the Open With dialog to associate .exe files with another application, it stores the settings in the above registry key, under a value named Progid. The Progid data will contain the application’s exe file name (Applications\Notepad.exe, Applications\iexplore.exe, or a Programmatic Identifier such as txtfile, jpegfile etc).

Hope the information helped you fix .exe file association problem in Windows.

Related article: How to Remove a File Association Using the Registry Editor?

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