Exe files not opening on your Windows 7 PC? Here’s a fix

Ivan Jenic
by Ivan Jenic
Troubleshooting Expert
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exe files not opening windows 7

Are exe files are not opening on your Windows 7 PC? This can be a major problem, but there’s a way to fix it.

What to do if I’m unable to open any program in Windows 7

  1. Reset registry to default
  2. Modify registry settings
  3. Scan your system for malware
  4. Use Windows Troubleshooter
  5. Restore file association for .exe files
  6. Move the .exe file to a different location

1. Reset registry to default

If, at any time, exe files are not opening on your PC, the first line of action is to reset your PC‘s registry to default. This is because a .exe file that fails to open is associated with a certain registry setting.

To reset the registry to default, follow the step-by-step guidelines below:

  1. Press Windows Key + R and enter regedit. Press Enter or click OK.regedit run window exe files not opening windows 7
  2. On the next window, locate the registry entry (key): HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.exe.registry editor exe files not opening windows 7
  3. Select the registry key, and right-click on it.
  4. Select Modify > Change the value data.
  5. Change it to exefile.
  6. Browse and locate the registry key: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.exefile.
  7. Change the Value data to “%1” %*
  8. Navigate to the following key:
    • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shell\open\
  9. Double-click on (Default) in the right pane and set its Value data to “%1” %*. Click OK to save changes.
  10. Exit Registry Editor.

If the above-listed steps are followed properly, your .exe files should now open fine without any problems.

2. Modify registry settings

This is a similar solution, but it might be helpful if exe files are not opening at all on your Windows 7 PC.

Follow the below-listed steps to modify registry settings:

  1. Start Registry Editor.
  2. Navigate to the following key: HKEY_Current_User\Software\Classes.
  3. Go to the side (left) panel and right-click on the .exe subkey.
  4. Select Delete > OK.
  5. Delete the following keys as well:
    • .bat
    • .cmd
    • .reg
    • .regedit
    • .secfile
  6. Exit the Registry Editor.
  7. If you follow these steps as listed, your PC‘s .exe files should start working.

However, it is important to note that modifying registry is a bit risky, as you can easily lose valuable files and data if you’re not careful.

Hence, it is recommended you back up your registry before trying this solution.

Windows won’t store your registry backup unless you enable it. Here’s how to do it properly!

To back up the registry, follow the steps below:

  1. Open Registry Editor.
  2. Locate and select the desired entry (registry key you want to back up).
  3. Click on File, and then Export.
    export registry exe files not opening
  4. In the dialog box, select the backup location.
  5. In the Filename box, type in a name for the file you are saving.
  6. Click Save.
    backup registry exe files not opening windows 7
  7. Exit Registry Editor.

3. Scan your system for malware

bitdefender exe files not opening windows 7

In the event that your PC became infected with a virus, you might not be able to open .exe files at all.

To remove the virus from a computer system, what you basically need is an anti-virus.

There are many great antivirus tools on the market that can help you scan your PC and remove the malware, but if you’re looking for a fast and reliable antivirus, we suggest that you try out Bitdefender.

After performing the scan, check if the problem is still there.

4. Use Windows Troubleshooter

This procedure can be employed, even before trying any of the above fixes. Windows Troubleshooter is basically the first line of action for any system-related error.

And in this case, it could also be employed, provided the problem is caused by system malfunction or error, and not by external or third-party interference.

To run the Troubleshooter on Windows 7:

  1. Click on the Start icon on your PC‘s desktop window.
  2. Select Control Panel and go under System and Security.
    system and security control panel exe files not opening
  3. Locate and click on Find and fix problems (Troubleshooting).
  4. Select the desired troubleshooter.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish the process.

5. Restore file association for .exe files

Sometimes this issue can occur if your registry was modified. However, there’s a way to fix that by following these steps:

  1. Download this .reg file.
  2. Once the file is downloaded, double-click it.
  3. Click Yes when the confirmation dialog appears.

After doing that, the issue with .exe files should be resolved.

6. Move the .exe file to a different location

If you can’t run .exe files that you’ve downloaded or extracted recently, try moving them to a different location, such as your Desktop or a root directory of your partition.

Sometimes the file path might be too long or it might contain special characters, and that can prevent files from running. If you can’t run any .exe file on your PC, then this solution won’t work for you.

In conclusion, this post has described four solutions that are commonly employed when exe files fail to open on Windows 7. If at any time, you fall a victim of this error, simply try one or more of the solutions from this article to fix it for good.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published in May 2019 and was revamped and updated in November 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.