When Microsoft Windows is set up for the first time, the installer creates a slew of file-extension associations that are meant to be permanent. For instance, the .msi extension (the file extension used for the Microsoft Installer file format) isn't meant to be changed or reassigned. There are dozens of such extensions that are meant to remain unchanged (with a few exceptions, such as multimedia files or .zip archives). If these extensions are changed or broken, some fundamental system functions themselves might stop working.
Sometimes this happens without the user intending it -- for instance, if a user installs a badly written application or a piece of malware infects his system. And because these associations are "hardwired" into Windows at install time, it can be difficult to restore their basic behavior without reinstalling Windows entirely.
Thankfully, Doug Knox and his associate Nigel Andrews have gone through the trouble of creating a compilation of just about every conceivable core file association for Windows, including fixes for exploring directories, the IE desktop icon, shortcut behavior, URLs and others that can't be repaired easily.
Each association has been packaged as a .REG file, then placed in a .zip archive. To restore functionality for any given extension, simply download it and launch the associated .REG file to add it to the Registry. Note that if .zip functionality is broken on your computer, you must get the .zip association ,first, since it's not archived and can be installed directly as a .REG file.
Several other gotchas may apply. For instance, if your .exe file associations somehow become trashed, you'll need to launch REGEDIT from the Task Manager and merge the .exe association manually before you can do many other things. There is as yet no way to merge all of them in one fell swoop, but it would be easy enough to do that by combining all the .REG files into one large file minus the header on each file.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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