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How to restore default zip file associations in Windows

Windows zip file associations are used to determine how Windows handles the opening of zip files. By default Windows can natively open zip files using Windows explorer. However, there are many software apps available that can also open zip files such as Bitser, 7-zip, WinRAR, and they may take over as the default program associated with opening zip files. If these applications are then later uninstalled the .zip file extension may be associated to a program that doesn't exist and hence fail to open correctly on your computer.

To fix this problem and restore Windows Explorer as the default program associated with zip files you can try any of the solutions listed below. Please note that while some solutions may work for one computer they may not work for another but hopefully you will find one that works for you :)

1) Change 'Open with' properties of a zip file

The easiest way to reset zip associations in windows is to:

1. Right click any zip file and select properties.
2. Click the Change button next to where it says Open with in the screenshot below.

change zip properties


3. In the Open with window select Windows Explorer from the list of programs
4. Tick Always use the selected program... and click OK.

zip default association

If you do not see Windows Explorer in the list above then click Browse and manually select Explorer.exe located at C:\Windows\explorer.exe as shown below. Finally click Open then OK.
All .zip files should now be associated with the original built-in windows default.

zip open with



2) 'Open with' context menu

Similar to solution 1 above you can also right click the zip file in explorer, select Open with from the context menu and then select Choose default program as shown below.

zip default association

Again the Open with window will be shown and you can select Windows Explorer from the list of programs, tick Always use the selected program... and click OK.

zip default association



3) Default Programs & Folder Options

To fix this problem in Windows 7 and 8 you can change file type associations for zip files by navigating to:

1. Control panel > Programs > Default Programs
Click Associate a file type or protocol with a program

zip default programs

Select the .zip extension, click the Change programs button and select Windows Explorer as the default.

zip set associations

In Windows XP the above options are not available but you can change .zip file extension associations by navigating to:

1. Control Panel > Folder Options
Click the File Types tab, select zip extension, click Change button and select Compressed Folders.

zip folder options



4) Use command prompt as administrator

You can also fix zip file assoiciations using the command line. Start the windows command prompt found in the start menu under Accessories. You will need to be administrator of the PC for this command to work. In windows 7 you will need to:

1. Right click the command prompt in the start menu and select Run as Administrator (not required in XP).
2. Type the following command: assoc .zip=CompressedFolder

zip assoc command


5) Editing registry keys

In Windows 7 and 8 you can also try to repair zip file associations by deleting a specific user key in the registry:

1. In the Windows Start menu search box type Regedit
Run Regedit.exe and navigate to HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.zip
3. Right click the UserChoice folder and select Delete. Answer Yes to permanently delete the subkeys.

zip registry edit


6) Install Bitser (freeware)

If all else fails you can try and install Bitser (freeware) which can set file extension associations programatically. Under the options tab in Bitser you can associate or unassociate the .zip extension to Bitser. When you unassociate it, Bitser will automatically reset .zip extensions so that they are opened by Windows Explorer. Bitser will also do this when it is uninstalled. The default/native windows association is called "CompressedFolder" which will appear after you un-check the box next to .zip and click apply as shown in the screenshot below. Bitser can be downloaded for free here

extension association

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