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Windows 10 File Associations

By May 19, 2017Uncategorized

Setting which application a file will open with in Windows 10 is different than before. You can set this initial association by overriding a file during your imaging process, or apply it using a Group Policy. We will go over both methods here.

During Imaging

All initial file associations are copied from C:\Windows\System\OEMDefaultAssociations.xml. If you want to set your own, you can modify this XML, then copy it to this location during your imaging process. We’ll take PDF as an example:

As you can see, it’s associated with Edge by default. If I want to change it to Acrobat Reader, I can simply modify that line to this:

I bet you’re wondering how you determine what to set the extensions too. We’ll go over that at the end.

Once my modifications are complete, I can override the default file with my changes. This file will apply when a user logs in and a user is free to change the associations, but you can at least give them a starting set.


You can see also give Windows a XML file using Group Policy. This is one of the few Group Policy settings I have seen that will actually allow a user to change something. This setting will only apply once. If a user changes an association after the policy applies, the policy will not override it. The GPO also applies with linked, whether a user has logged into a computer already or not. You take the same XML file that we already created and apply it to the setting “Set a default associations configuration file” located at Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer.

Capture File Associations

To identify what to put in the XML file, I suggest configuring a user account with all of the associations that you want to change. Then, run this command from an administrative command prompt:

dism /Online /Export-DefaultAppAssociations:c:\appassoc.xml

This will output a XML file with the lines that look like my screenshots.  You can then either deploy this XML file, or copy the custom settings out of it and into a file that you will then deploy. If you’re overriding the OEMDefaultAssocications.xml file, I suggest keeping all of the contents of the file, or else you may end up with a lot of files that have no default association. If you’re going the GPO route, I would extract only the changes, and not deploy the entire exported file.




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