Did you just try to open a file on Windows and receive the error message “These files can’t be opened”? The error mainly occurs with .exe files, but some users also encounter this error with other file types. The problem is most common on Windows 7 and 8, but you can still experience it on a PC running Windows 10.
Fortunately, fixing the error won’t take you long. However, identifying the cause of the error so that you can apply the appropriate fix will take more time.
Whatever the cause, one of the following fixes will help you get back to the files you need.
1. Check if the file is blocked
Sometimes, when you download an executable from the Internet or transfer files between PCs, Windows may decide to block the file to protect your system. When this happens, you will see the error “These files can’t be opened”, but you only need two steps to unblock this file.
To illustrate this behavior, the article downloaded the setup file of 4K Video Downloader to the PC. Windows does not block access to this file but warns in the Security section of the File Properties > General tab.
The message says, “This file came from another computer and might be blocked to help protect this computer“. If you can’t access the file, you can fix it by checking the Unblock box and clicking OK. If you’re using a different version of Windows, you may see a button instead of a checkbox, but the process stays the same.
Once you’re done, try running the file and see if everything is back on track.
2. Modify the Internet Properties
Windows will check the Internet Properties when deciding if the file is allowed to run on the PC. If your Internet Properties mark a file as unsafe, Windows will throw a “These files can’t be opened” error. Therefore, to change the behavior of Windows, you need to make some changes to Internet Properties.
Please keep in mind that this will necessitate less stringent security settings in Internet Properties. Although this will correct the error, it will also expose the system to security threats if you do not pay attention to which files download to your system.
If you decide to go this route, start by opening Internet Properties. To do this, press Win + R, type inetcpl.cpl, and press Enter. Switch to the Security tab in the Internet Properties window and click the Custom level button.
You should now see the Security Settings – Internet Zone window. Scroll through the list in Settings and find Launching applications and unsafe files.
Make sure that Prompt (recommended) is selected. This option is usually selected by default, but if you’ve rummaged through your Internet properties before, you may have accidentally changed it to Disable.
Once done, click OK and see if you can run the file.
3. Try editing the value in the Windows Registry
If the previous fixes didn’t work, you can also try allowing unsafe files by editing the Windows Registry. You will need to add a new registry entry using the Command Prompt. Start by launching Command Prompt with admin rights.
Execute the following commands, one by one:
reg add "HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesAssociations" /v "DefaultFileTypeRisk" /t REG_DWORD /d "1808" /f
reg add "HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesAttachments" /v "SaveZoneInformation" /t REG_DWORD /d "1" /f
This will add two new registry keys. Once done, restart your PC and try opening the files.
4. Reset Internet Explorer
If you use Internet Explorer, resetting the settings to default can help. To reset Internet Explorer’s settings, click the ellipsis icon at the top right of the browser, and then click Internet Options. Switch to the Advanced tab and click the Reset button. When prompted, confirm the reset and then restart the PC.
If you still can’t run the files you want, it might be time to try the last resort.
5. Revert the computer to a previous system restore point
If you were able to run a particular file before but started getting this error after messing up some settings, you can restore your system to a previous state, when everything was going normally.
If there is no restore point, you will see the message “No restore points have been created on your computer’s system drive“. This means that your PC has no waypoints to revert to, so you cannot use this method to fix your problem.
If you have a restore point on your system, choose a recommended restore point or another one based on when the problem started and click Next. Continue to follow the wizard’s prompts. After the system is restored, the PC will restart, and you can now run the files you want.
Check out some more articles below:
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