How to customise Windows' defaults

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How to customise Windows' defaults
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Our detailed guide shows how to change Windows 10's default programs, file associations, email, search, printer and device settings.

If you’ve upgraded to Windows 10, or bought a PC running the new operating system, you’ll notice that Microsoft’s apps are the defaults for all your PC’s functions: Groove Music for playing music, Photos for viewing photos, and so on. And, if you’re new to the operating system, it’s not particularly obvious how to change those defaults.

We’ll show you how to set new defaults, as well as a secret way to use Gmail in Chrome as your default email service, how to set your default printer and scanner, and how to change the default search engine.

1. Install your favourite programs and reset

Ensure that you’ve installed any third-party program or app that you want to set as your default. Now open the Start menu, click Settings, System, then click ‘Default apps’.

Some programs may have automatically set themselves as defaults after you installed them. If you’re happy with that, then leave it as the default. If not, click the Reset button at the bottom to reset all your apps to Microsoft’s defaults. You’ll now see Microsoft Edge as your default web browser, Films & TV as your default video player, and so on. You can now systematically change each one.

2. Change the default apps

To change your default app for any of the functions (such as ‘Music player’), click the current default (Groove Music). You’ll now see a list of installed programs/apps that you can use as your default for that function. Click to select the one you want (such as ‘VLC media player’).

If a program or app you want to use doesn’t appear within the list, then you'll need to add it manually...

3. Add to the list of potential default programs

For example, Photos is Windows' default ‘Photo viewer’ app. If you click to change it (see Step 2), you’ll see a list of alternative programs. You’ll notice that some third-party programs (such as the popular IrfanView) won’t appear, even if they’re installed on your PC.

Using IrfanView as an example, here’s how to add it to the list. First, scroll to the bottom of the ‘Default apps’ section and click ‘Set defaults by app’. You’ll now see an alphabetical list of all the programs and apps on your PC. Select IrfanView, then click ‘Set this program as default’. This will set IrfanView as the default program for all the file types associated with it (photos, images and screenshots).

4. Associate file types

Alternatively, you can choose which file type you want to set IrfanView as your default for. To do this, select the program in the alphabetical list on the left, then click ‘Choose defaults for this program’ below.

Now click the Current Default heading and scroll down the list. You’ll see that the Photos app is set as your default for most photo file formats. Tick the file formats you want to set IrfanView as your default for (.jpg, gif, .png, .raw and .tif are the most common image formats), then click Save. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 to change your defaults for all the programs and apps that don’t appear within your list in the ‘Default apps’ section.

Next: change defaults for email, devices and search. 

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