Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Have you lost your .EXE file extension association in Windows Vista?

"I have problems to start all programs that has the .EXE extension!" "My programs are broken!" "What happened to my .exe file extensions?" "I cannot run Regedit or do a System Restore!" "I'm unable to launch..." "I have an EXE file problem, the EXE does not execute"

You have probably tried to open an .EXE file with something like Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, Notepad or the like. This results in having the .EXE file extension corrupted.

Now you really have problems since most every program requires access the exe file association to work. But there is no need to panic.

If you have this problem the solution is not the same as in previous Windows versions. Below you can see what have been added to the registry after Acrobat Reader (AcroRD32.exe) has been associated with .exe files. They need to be removed but since you cannot run regedit.exe you need to use a .reg file like one of those below.


Solution (only compatible with Windows Vista)

Here are some registry files that should be able to fix this problem. Download one of them and save it locally. Double click on the file and when asked "Windows needs your permission to continue" "Registry Editor" it is to give permission to start regedit.exe. Click on Continue. Then the Registry Editor will warn you again and click on Yes to add or merge the content of the reg file to the registry. You need to be an administrator to apply these fixes.

Windows Vista exe fix.reg

Here is the content of the above file. Copy the three rows below to Notepad and save to a file with the file extension reg.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00



Windows Vista exe fix2.reg

Here is the content of the above file. Copy the five rows below to Notepad and save to a file with the file extension reg.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00




If the above ones does not help here is a more thorough one.

Windows Vista exe fix3.reg

And if nothing else works you can try this one.

Windows Vista exe fix4.reg

To see the change of the icons you might need to log out or restart the computer. But the file association should work directly.

If you want to reproduce the error save the below rows using Notepad to a .reg file.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00





If You Are Unable to Start a Program with an .exe File Extension in Windows XP take a look at this knowledge base article from Microsoft. In this case a virus is the cause of the problem.

When you attempt to start a program that has an .exe file extension, the program may not start, and you may receive one of the following error messages:

    • Windows cannot find FILES32.VXD. This program is needed for opening files of type "Application".
    • Path to program is not a valid Windows application

Your desktop may appear to be blank. Also, the problem occurs many times when you restart your computer. Even after an anti-virus program has indicated it has cleaned the virus, the registry entry described in the "Resolution" section of this article is still in the registry.

Another KB is also for Windows 2000.

When you try to start a program that has an .exe file name extension, you receive one of the following error messages:

  • Windows cannot find FileName.exe
  • Windows cannot find ProgramName. Make sure you typed the name correctly
  • Windows cannot find FileName.exe. This program is needed for opening files of type "ProgramName".

This problem probably can happen also in Windows 7.


  1. [Bowing in whatever direction JTB World Blog resides]

    O Great One, We give thanks and praise for the knowledge thou hast granted us, that we might undue the damage done through our ignorance, which even the Wise at Microsoft could not do.

    Or, more colloquially:

    THANK YOU!!!!!!

    All I knew was I'd destroyed the proper file association for .exe, and I couldn't find anything talking about what the association should be; lots on creating new associations, restoring to default not a thing.

    thank you thank you thank you

  2. Restored comments

    J said...

    You are my freakin hero.

    This is the fastest and simplest fix I could have hoped for. You saved me hours.

    Thanks, man.
    March 11, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    Can't thank you enough. Made my day.!!
    March 12, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    Ditto - you just saved me so much time. I can't believe Intuit Quickbooks Pro 2007 has such a faulty downloader program. It totally misleads you into changing your .exe file association to whatever you have highlighted. In my case Adobe Reader. Thank you so much!!!!!!! The first fix worked flawlessly.
    March 13, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks a million. Fix #1 did the trick. I was ready to toss the thing off the roof (I may never open Media Center again, having seen it 10,000 times in the last 2 days).
    March 17, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    Five stars for you pal, wish I could shake your hand.
    Many thanks........
    March 18, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    this is not only compatible with windows vista...IT ALSO WORKS WITH WINDOWS XP HOME!!! Thank you SO much...not to fix the dang .ink files.../sigh
    May 04, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    I got all my programs back!!!!!!! Thanks a million. Some of my icons didn't return to normal but the programs work fine..... Thought it was a gonner for a minute...
    August 08, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    You are a lifesaver,

    Thank you very much.

    ignorantMe ;-)
    August 14, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    Couldn't believe I'd broken Vista within a week, your solution works perfectly - If only I had found it sooner and mitigated the damage - nevertheless yet again you are a life saver - thanks...john
    September 25, 2007

    free ps3 said...

    Thanks for the nice post!
    September 27, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    you are really saved me.......
    October 01, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    100% agree with the previous comments - This is the most wonderful fix I've ever come across. I just gave your link to the Dell Tec people so others like me - with nice new Dells - don't waste days re-installing the OS etc...! Fantastic - a Million thanks.
    October 03, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you soooooooooooo much!!!!
    October 18, 2007

    Andy Needs Help! said...

    Help i tried all three, to no joy, i still have the same problem :(
    if anyone can help, i would be incredibly grateful, my email is

    Thanks in advance!
    October 28, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    I had lost all hope of fixing this short of the image restore as sugested by Dell tech. The only thing I had to do after the fix was to fix a couple of .exe desktop icon. Sweet.....
    November 08, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    Worst week for this to happen to me. You just saved me 6-8 hours of rebuilding. Thanks so much!
    November 24, 2007

    desalegn said...

    Other blogs recommend to open exe files while I tell them I lost exe, damn
    Oh God, I was writing an exam and I stack unfortunately. It is really U and only u who saved me from a great failure.
    Thanks alot
    a mellion times
    no words
    love u
    November 28, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    OMG, i dont know who you are, but you saved me hours from reinstalling vista, fix 1 worked, thanks soo much man!
    December 30, 2007

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for this! God bless you and your whole family!
    January 13, 2008

    Anonymous said...

    YOUR A FREAKING GOD THANK GOD, but what do i post teh 3 lines to?
    January 22, 2008

    JTB World said...

    "but what do i post teh 3 lines to?"
    Not sure what the question is but the 3 lines updates information in the so called registry that hold a lot of Windows and other software's settings.
    January 22, 2008

    Anonymous said...

    I'm also having trouble still... I tried all three and none worked. The last fix tried to make acrobat reader open all my .exe files? If anyone knows of a fix that can help I really would appreciate it if you could e-mail me the help.
    January 27, 2008

    Editor said...

    As the other comments say, You SAVED my life! New computer of my wife's. Thank you so much!
    January 28, 2008

    Anonymous said...

    Thankyou thankyou thankyou. It also worked for me on XP!
    February 02, 2008

    Arrowofdarkness said...

    omg! thank you man, when I went to fire up crysis on my new core 2 duo rig and notepad fired up ... I freaked! Thank you fix#4 worked ;)
    February 12, 2008

    Anonymous said...

    It was "fix 1" that saved me from becomeing crazy.

    This is the best blog i ever read. thanks a lot man!!
    Such things should be on the Windows HP to help as much people as possible!!
    February 14, 2008

    Anonymous said...

    Dude, You are a genius! I have been working on this exe problem for 4 hours straight! Fix One Worked straight away (after restart of course) Thanks A LOT! I was almost going to format drive!

    Adam H.
    February 24, 2008

    Adriana said...

    Love ya!!! I been like, 3 week selecting the program opening the location then selecting a default program then searching in the computer for the .exe file each time i was going to open an application, you save me a lot of time and the effort to reinstall Vista. Thank you so much
    February 26, 2008

    Chris said...

    Thanks so much.. Winrar hijacked all my exe files and I was stuck with a capital S. Fix #1 got me going again. Thanks again!
    March 30, 2008

    Anonymous said...

    thankyou a million million. i could kiss you! this has totally worked and fixed everything. you are a lifesaving genius and i owe you!
    April 22, 2008

    testpattern said...

    Dude, yes, I am one of many people whose ass you have saved. But I have to ask, not of you, but in general, why the fuck is this OS so poorly designed that opening a file with the wrong program creates a global registry change?

    But anyway, you are a saint, and hopefully I will be more careful in the future
    April 24, 2008

    Spartan9567 said...

    May 10, 2008

    JTB World said...

    Good to hear that this fix has helped so many. :)
    May 10, 2008

    Anonymous said...

    dito, dito... Script no. 1 saved my life, too. Many, many thanks
    May 24, 2008

    Anonymous said...

    Ditto the above comments ... also saved me hours of hassles!! Thanks a million ....
    June 16, 2008

  3. Hi,
    I have this same problem with lost .exe extensions. I've tried to use the fix you suggested, but my Dell Vista laptop won't let me open the .reg files. Is there anything you can suggest?
    Thanks very much

  4. speckledrose, what message do you get when you try to double click on the reg file? (saved to your computer)

  5. Thank so so much, you are a super-star:D:D:D:D:D

    i cant believe my files are fixed now and everything is reset, i was going crazy yesterday when i by mistake selected Adobe while runing cutepdf.exe and everything went so wrong then, also the 4th menu option is defaults setting went out of order and i was so scared fearing i had to format windows, you saved me big time and thank you so so much!

    I am second year phd at manch uni, in computer sicence but didnt know how to fix registry, i am so glad i found this blog and thank you again for saving a big hasle:)


  6. How do you do this on XP?

  7. You can give those tips a try on XP and leave a comment how it goes.

  8. AHH my thanks to whomever posted that fix. I was about to cry when this happened. I had an essay due for my one course and couldn't open any programs to view, edit or print it! I thought I had a virus but i guess it was just my fault.. THANK YOU

  9. Thanks, first fix worked. I thought i had screwed my pc for good.. :P

  10. I tried the first one and then the second one in Windows XP Home, and after the second one my associations were fixed.

  11. I'm greatly satisfied.

    I was actually thinking of reinstalling windows. Fabulous!!

    Thank you!

  12. AnonymousJune 20, 2009

    I dont get this at all....I suck wit computers and I have no freakin idea wat to do. I downloaded the thing but I dont know wat to do from there...

  13. Thanks you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Anyone know how to get the icons back?

  14. ILU it works and its so simply!

  15. thanks alot and it might be good to know that this also works on windows 7. I used it to fix my Win 7 extension assoc- and it worked like a charm
    THanks alot!!!

  16. Yip, works in Windows 7. Thanks a mil for this simple solution! All my .exe's were opening in Notepad. All fixed now.

  17. all i did was delete ADOBE READER then everything was ok .so i did a system restore !
    Everything back to normal


    you saved my computer!!! i love you!!!! fix #1 didnt work, but #2 did!!!! ^_^ thanks!!!

  19. Thank you! I did panic but you are a god!!!!! Thanks again!

  20. Awesome, fixed the problem fast and safely. Thanks for posting.

  21. Had to go all the way to fix 4, but it worked. Thank you very much!!!

  22. YOOOOOO!!!!
    Thank you soo friken much!!!
    You are a genius. I was having
    so much trouble, and was really pissed. I thought i had ot buy a new computer or somehting


  23. I went all the way down to four and started losing hope, but then it worked! Thank you so much! This was all caused by the 'Internet Security 2010' virus.

  24. Fix 3 finally worked for me. Don't know what happened, but thank you!

  25. For a solution that was posted nearly 3 years ago it's amazing to see it still saving so many computer owners an inevitable OS re-install.
    I include myself in that list as it just saved my bacon too!
    THANKYOU very much for takeing the time to create this post!

  26. What he said ^^

    I was about to throw in the towell then found this.

    Thank you very much

  27. Thanks so much. I thought that av.exe malware thing killed my laptop. Fix 4 straightened everything back out.

  28. Awesome

  29. Thank you so much!!!
    Last fix worked for me

  30. Thank YOU so much!!! It works with the second fix. My System: Windows 7 x64 Home Premium and it works ;-)


  31. Thanks a lot. Great article!!!

  32. Ditto to everything above this.
    Thank you

  33. AnonymousMay 17, 2010


  34. TQ very, very, very much!! Works on windows 7, first fix.reg.

  35. selamun alaykum ... may Allah (c.c.) bless you !!!!!!!!!!!

  36. TQVM!

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!

    I thought I Should Re-format my pc again...

    thanks again..

  37. thank you.....
    problem solved

  38. Thank you! Worked great. Lifesaver!


  39. you just made my day.. fix 3 worked on XP..! thanks so very much..

  40. Thanks, also works on Windows 7 64bit

  41. Awesome awesome awesome. Lost the extension associations to some malware, nowhere else had a clue what was going on.

    Thanks for the reg fixes!

    -Ben from Canada

  42. You were recommending the creation of simple programs using Notepad.

    What does one do, though, if Notepad is yet another program that Internet Explorer is trying to run?

  43. Alyssa O. If you have another Windows account you can use that, otherwise try to create another user account and then you should be able to run Notepad.

  44. What? This makes no sense unless you are a tech. The instructions are not clear, where is the registry editor and which fil are you talking about?

  45. You don't need to know about the Registry Editor. Just download one of the solutions or try them all and accept the prompts.

    The Registry is where Windows saves a lot of settings and with Registry Editor these can be edited.

  46. Thank you...You really help me so much! thank you.. God Bless you.. Thank you

  47. AnonymousMay 01, 2011

    number 4 worked for me. Thank you so much for the help

  48. AnonymousMay 07, 2011

    Great fix, thank you very much. Fix #3 worked for me.

  49. AnonymousMay 18, 2011

    Hi, how do you save to a file with the file extension reg. I'm not very computer tech and I can't figure out what this means. If it's supposed to be in the drop down box under save as file type the only option I have to save it as a .txt file. Please help. Thank you

  50. If you don't know how to save it with .reg extension you can just use the direct downloads that are available on the post.

    When you save the file just add .reg at the end of the file name. For example name it fix.reg

    Otherwise see these links

  51. AnonymousMay 31, 2011

    Yes Yes Yes... You saved my day.

  52. THANK YOU FOR Helping me after I destroyed my sister in laws computer after fighting a virus! THANK YOU!!!!

  53. AnonymousJuly 25, 2011

    Thank God for your help, ive had this issue for a month and had a hastle finding programs/files, and this fixed it within a few minutes. Thanks!

  54. Thanks so much!! Great! Fix number one worked :)

  55. Thanks so much, worked great for me.

  56. I can't thank you enough for this. A virus wiped out my .exe extension and left me helpless, I couldn't restore or even edit the registry manually, even after attempting to change regedit to a com file(access denied on administrator). I burned fix 4 to a CD while on another computer, loaded the file on my computer, merged it with the registry and it worked beautifully. The fix allowed me to run the system restore and get my computer back. Again, thank you.

  57. Thank you! Thank you! The 4th one was a charm. Virus wiped out my EXE. You saved me.

    Too Bad it took me 2 hours to find the info. I wish I tried google search first.

  58. I don't know, but whoever you are....GOD BLESS YOU!

    I have changed the file associations of my .exe files accidently last evening and after a day I found your blog. Thank God, there are people who are ready to share knowledge with others. My bug has resolved, thanx to you.

  59. AnonymousMay 03, 2012


  60. Mate,

    Thank you!

    I've spent the whole day trying to solve this. F"£$! idiots at MS kept saying download this "X" .exe and run this program... hello? Didn't I tell you I can't run any .exe?

    I also tried editing directly looking at values from another laptop, but that's on Win7 so quite different.

    Not sure how it all started though. I ran AVG antivirus and Malwarebytes with nothing detected. MS antivirus (which I ran from CMD on Safe Mode) detected 21 hazardous files too but nothing related, I think, to this.

    Any thoughts on what caused this? It started when I tried to extract a .zip file.



  61. AnonymousJune 01, 2023

    Nice post thank you Wendy


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