No Program Associated with File

Dear Computer Lady,

I just received an email with an attachment that I can’t open – message received “this file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the folder options control panel.

How is that done?

My email operates thru Outlook Express & operates under Windows XP.

thank you, Linda


Dear Linda,

The message you received means that your computer doesn’t know what program the file was made in, so it doesn’t know what program to use to open the file with.

Before you can tell your computer what program to open the file with (that is what the message means by “create and association”) you need to know a couple of things.

First, you need to know what program the file was created in (or what type of file it is). You might have to ask the person who sent the file to you, or you can look at the three letter file extension at the end of the file name. For example, if the file ends with .doc you would know that it is a Microsoft Word document and you can open the file in Word, or another program that can open Word files. If the file ends with .jpg you would know that it is an image, and you can open it with any image viewer.

If you are not familiar with the three letter file extension, just ask the person who sent it to you, and they should be able to tell you what program they created it in.

Once you know the type of file you have, then you need to figure out if you have a program on your computer that can read that file. Using our example above, if the file ends with .doc, you know you have a Microsoft Word file, and can use either Word, or another program (like OpenOffice) that is capable of reading Word files.

If you don’t have a program installed on your computer that is capable of using the file, then creating an association will not do you any good, because no matter what program you associate with that file type, it will not be able to open it.

If you know that the file you want to open is one that you can use with one of your installed programs, the easiest way to open it is to save the attached file to your computer (your desktop would work fine), then right-click on the file. Click on “Open With” and select the correct program from the list, then open the file.

I hope this helps, Elizabeth

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    • Kate
    • June 10, 2011

    The first thing I would ask is if I know the sender. If I don’t know the sender I wouldn’t open it anyway.

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