Quick Tip: Don’t associate .lnk files with Internet Explorer in Windows Vista

There is a trick circulating around the internet which tries to get Windows Vista users to associate .lnk files with IE. Don’t do it… below I give instructions on how to fix it.

If you haven’t done it yet, the reason you don’t want to is that it will make all of the icons on your desktop and in your Quick Launch bar try to open in IE which will continually give you the “open or save” dialog box but will never let you open anything. In addition, all of your icons will change to the IE icon so you can’t even tell what they’re supposed to be by looking at them.

On top of that, there is no easy way in Vista to “un-associate” the file-type after you have associated it… so many users feel pretty trapped.

Anywho… if you or someone you know associated .lnk with IE 7, here’s how to fix it:
1. Hold down the “Windows” key and press “r”.
2. Type “regedit” (short for registry editor) and press enter.
3. Click around until you find the keys in “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.lnk” and delete all of the sub-folders below that folder (but not the .lnk folder itself).
4. The icons should work now, but if they don’t look like the picture they represent (and instead, you see the Internet Explorer icon everywhere), restart your computer and you should be ready to rock.

The reason that this is so popular is that someone found this trick while Vista was still very young, and it’s extremely difficult for most users to reverse (since you can’t just “un-associate” the file-type after you’ve associated it), so if someone wants to do some damage but is too big of a n00b to write actual code, they can just tell people this exploit really easily to have a decent amount of annoying-to-revert damage.

Hope that helps!


“but is to big of a n00b to write actual code”

should be “but is too big of a n00b to write actual code”


Thank you so much. I had accidentally associated .lnk with adobe reader, (long story) but I followed your steps and it fixed it! Thanks again.


Thank you so so much. My daughter had done something and all lnk files were linked to IE. Followed your steps and everything seem to be back to normal.
Thanks again you’re a star. Vincent


had about the same problem, but not only the .lnk was messed, also the .exe files where linked to iexplore.exe. Windows + r and regedit did not work anymore.
i am an old guy (grin) and used Windows + r and afterwards command.com . In the DOS box (i am a really old guy) the regedit.exe was working.
MS KB 950505 also helped me even though it didnt work as described ;-)
thanks Sean.


Thanks for making this info available- spent the last hour very frustrated after downloading Netscape 4 to get the old HTML composer – everything went crazy on my system & all icons changed to IE – explorer failed to open– your instructions made everything go away immediately..Thanks a million


Thanks…It worked on windows 7…my wife associated the files to wordpad by mistake…she woke me up at 1 am….you saved my life, hehehehe, thanks

Joe C.

As a technical support rep for my company, I had to use this to fix the shortcuts on a client PC. She’d somehow associated .lnk files with the wincal.exe application on her new Vista PC. I could not use the exact registry path listed above, probably because there are multiple profiles on her PC and some of them are roaming. Instead I had to go to “Computer\HKEY_USERS\*somecrazynetworkgenerateduseridcodestring*\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.lnk”

Other than that, the rest of the process worked like a champ.
Also, I have found that if the icons don’t revert to their original picture immediately you need only change the color depth of the display to fix it (I chose to drop from 32-bit to 16-bit and then said ‘no’ when it asked if I wished to keep the changes).

Joe C.

It appears that my string above was too long to fit in the width of the comment fields. Essentially if you replace the original article’s text of “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\” with “Computer\HKEY_USERS\*somecrazynetworkgenerateduseridcodestring*\Software\” then the rest of the text is exactly the same.

Problem with opening shortcuts

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Sunil M

Thank u very Much i tried for many sites to get rid of this ink isse.
but i got suggessations like and antivirus or malware s/w and all

thanks again


You are definitely a life saver I was looking at so many sites saying I need to do this and that. This really helped a lot. Thank so much


Thank you so much for posting this. I had a problem where multiple shortcut icons on my desktop suddenly started showing icons for other programs. In looking for a fix on the internet I found a youtube video where the guy explained about associating the .lnk file with ie to fix the problem. I was shocked when everything then turned to into the ie icon! I’m going to go post your link on his video comments. Took me another hour until I found your post and it fixed it. You have saved the day! I still don’t know what caused the other problem in the first place. It happened when I was following some other advice online to set my user va (with bcdedit) to 2500.


Thank you so much, all of my files were associated with Windows Photo Viewer (long story) and I tried everything to fix it. I wish I had found this first; it worked like a charm.

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