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Issue #857: December 24 – 30, 2023

Q: With zero changes to my laptop, out of the blue of late, after opening several image files, all of which have associations to a working program as they always have, Windows 11 Explorer begins to pop-up a dialogue box that says: “This file does not have an app associated with it for performing this action. Please install an app or, if one is already installed, create an association in the Default Apps Settings page.” A registry fix is defined which was already implemented in the two places Microsoft’s site directs. Bottom line: I’m out of ideas and fixes. I also cleared the cache of recently opened files in the Folder Properties dialogue box under the General tab. If you can help, that would be great.

 – William R.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: The first thing that comes to mind in your situation, William, is that just because you didn’t make any changes to your laptop doesn’t mean that “zero changes” were made to it.  Windows itself, and many other pieces of software update themselves all the time without telling you they are doing it.  In most cases, this is a good thing, since it keeps your computer up to date with all the latest bug fixes and security patches.  But notice I said, “In most cases.”  There is always going to be that one-off, or that situation that Microsoft, or some other software vendor didn’t anticipate, which causes a problem.  Since issues like yours don’t tend to just happen spontaneously without a cause, my guess is that it “something” has indeed changed on your computer.

As you are likely aware, file associations play a critical role in the ease-of-use of your system.  Sure, you could run Microsoft Word, then click File -> Open, and navigate to a file, but it’s so much easier to just double-click on the file and have Windows open Word and automatically load the file.  What you may not be aware of is that “Open” is not the only action that Windows can perform through file associations.  I want you to look very carefully at the message you cited in your question.  It says, “This file does not have an app associated with it for performing this action.”  What action?  Nowhere does it ever state that it is trying to open a file, which, I presume is what you checked. 

So, to proceed on a logical diagnostic path, it is critical to know two things:  First of all, exactly what process in Windows is initiating action on the file; and second, what action is it trying to perform?

I did a little reading on this, and similar problems, and learned that there are only a few things in Windows that tend to trigger this error.  The first recommendation was to look in Task Manager and go to the Details tab and check for any processes that you don’t recognize, especially ones that you didn’t start, and seem to be steadily consuming CPU or I/O time.  One likely offender is Windows’ Search Indexer. If allowed to run free, it might try and index the contents of every file on your system, causing it to attempt to open some files in an odd way.  If you find Search Indexer is using excessive amounts of system resources, try limiting it to commonly used file types, such as .txt and .docx.

If, after looking, you simply cannot find a process causing the issue, try to check and repair the operating system itself using the DISM and SFC tools.

Another big-bad that I read about that was associated with this error was Microsoft OneDrive.  It seems that after a particular self-update, the error you cited manifests on some computers.  I’ve linked an article on this topic at TinyURL.com/IGTM-0857 so you can read about it directly from the source.

Finally, it is possible that malware could be trying to mess with the files.  It is always a good idea to perform a full malware scan when your system exhibits odd behavior, and this certainly qualifies as odd.


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