Solved: .lnk and .exe Open With Internet Explorer

One strange incident came across the road today. A customer had somehow managed to change all .lnk (shortcuts) to open with Internet Explorer so all the icons were Internet Explorer’s too. Mostly the shortcuts referred to .exe files so this at first created a puzzle when the Microsoft suggested workaround didn’t work. But I am clever and figured it out 😉

Here is how to solve the problem when .exe (actually .lnk) files open with Internet Explorer (or some other program you accidentally selected):

1. See Microsoft’s solution to restoring .exe associations. To prevent “broken link”, I’ll paste the steps here.

Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  1. To open the Task Manager, press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC.
  2. Click File , press CTRL and click New Task (Run…) at the same time. A command prompt opens.

  3. At the command prompt, type notepad, and then press ENTER.

  4. Paste the following text into Notepad:
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00  [-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.exe]  [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.exe]  [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.exe\OpenWithList]  [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.exe\OpenWithProgids] "exefile"=hex(0): 

  5. On the File menu, click Save as.

  6. Select All Files in the Save as type list, and then type Exe.reg in the File name box.
  7. Select Unicode in the Encoding list. Save it and remember the file location.

  8. Return to the Command Prompt window, type REG IMPORT [filepath]Exe.reg, and then press ENTER.

    Note [filepath] is a placeholder which is to input your Exe.reg file location (e.g. C:\Exe.reg).

  9. Click Yes, and then click OK in response to the registry prompts.
  10. Log off from your account. Then, log back onto your account.

Note You may have to restart the computer to restore the program icons to their original appearance.

Note After the problem is resolved, delete the Exe.reg file so that it is not mistakenly added back to the registry at a later date.

Windows XP

  1. Click Start, then click Run.
  2. In the Open box, type explorer and then click OK.
  3. Navigate to the Windows directory (e.g. a typical path may be C:\Windows) and locate regedit.exe.
  4. Right-click on regedit.exe and select Run as. Uncheck “Protect my computer and data from unauthorized program activity” and click OK.
  5. Using Regedit, locate and then click on the following registry key:
  6. On the left panel, right-click on the following registry subkey: ‘.exe’
  7. Select Delete and then click OK.
  8. On the left panel, right-click on the following registry subkey:
  9. Select Delete and then click OK.
  10. Close Registry Editor.


2. Now you have restored .exe associations, proceed to .lnk

Click Start Menu, and then type regedit in the Start Search, hit Enter for Windows XP, right click on regedit for Vista and 7 and select Run as Administrator from the menu. In registry editor navigate to the following registry branch:


Click on the plus sign to expand it and delete the sub-key named UserChoice. Exit from Registry Editor.

3. Restart your computer and you should be good. 

Post Author: Tom Pai