How to change Windows 10’s default image viewer

Windows 10 is greedy about some of its file associations. My favorite JPEG viewer is Irfanview, but Windows 10 doesn’t make it easy to use it by default. Here’s how to change Windows 10’s default JPEG viewer to something lighter-weight than the default Photos app. I like Irfanview because it’s lightweight and surprisingly powerful, but this trick works for other apps too. Here’s how to change Windows 10’s default image viewer.

With very few exceptions, only applications installed from the Microsoft store are eligible to be set as the default viewer for image files. To set your default picture viewer to something like Irfanview, you have to install it from the store first to make it eligible.

How do I change my default picture viewer to Irfanview?

Change default image viewer Windows 10
To change the default image viewer in Windows 10, first you have to install your preferred viewer from the Microsoft store.

Irfanview has a feature to change the file associations for image files to itself, right from within the app. But if you use that feature, Windows 10 changes it right back. And the default Photos app is SLOW. It loads slow, it loads images slow, and doesn’t have any features. Irfanview is much better, especially if you’ve been using it more than 20 years like I have. It’s annoying little things like this that made Windows 10 much less beloved than some of its predecessors. I know why they did it (more on that in a minute), but if you find it annoying, I understand. I find it annoying.

Windows 10 only lets you use apps from its built-in app store for certain risky file types. Image files are one of those. So the weird trick is to install Irfanview from the Microsoft store, rather than downloading it.

If you’re a certain age, it may seem counter-intuitive to look for a program like Irfanview in an app store. But it’s there. Click the Start button, type store to bring up the Microsoft Store, and open the app. Click the magnifying glass in the top right to search, then type irfanview. You’ll see two choices, a 64-bit version and a conventional version for 32-bit systems. You probably want the 64-bit version, unless you know you have a 32-bit system. Click on the version you want, then click Get.

The last step: Changing your default image viewer in Windows 10

change default image viewer in Windows 10
Once you install Irfanview or your preferred image viewer from the Microsoft store, it becomes eligible for you to check the box that says Always use this app to open image files.

Now, when you right click on a JPG or another image file and choose Open With followed by Use another app, Irfanview shows up in that list. Check the box next to Always use this app to open jpg files, and Windows 10 will finally respect your wishes. Repeat this for any other image file you may use frequently (such as PNG and GIF), and now when you double-click images in Explorer, they load quickly and in a lightweight program that lets you do things.

The lesson learned here is to install apps from the Microsoft store when you have the option. My kids would roll their eyes at that, but change can be hard when you’ve been doing things a certain way since 1996.

Uninstalling the old Irfanview version

Now you have another problem. It’s less annoying but still potentially confusing: Now you have two copies of Irfanview. The one from the store updates automatically, which is nice (not that Irfanview updates terribly often). But having the second version hanging around leads to more open windows and other unnecessary duplication. Click the Start menu, then type add to pull up Add/Remove Programs, then find the old copy of Irfanview you installed manually. That’ll be the one with a version number in the title. Click on it, click Uninstall, and say yes to all the warnings. It won’t affect the copy you installed from the store.

Now your Windows PC just has one copy of Irfanview, it’s set as your default image viewer, and loading images takes a fraction of a second again.

 

One thought on “How to change Windows 10’s default image viewer

  • September 21, 2020 at 10:07 am
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    Usually this is good advice. But there are a few exceptions that I know about, and there are likely others that I am not familiar with.

    Don’t install VLC from the Microsoft Store. That version lacks some capabilities that the one from videolan.org has.

    The version of the Arduino IDE from the Windows Store puts files in different places than the download from arduino.cc does, which creates a few problems because some of them are system directories that you can’t easily access; you get UAC prompts every time you try to modify something. Some third party add-ons like Teensyduino (Arduino support for the Teensy boards from PJRC) get really confused by the changes. Many books and online tutorials about doing stuff with Arduino don’t work as written because they tell you to look for files in their non-Store locations.

    Reply

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