Explorer AWOL: File Does Not Have a Program Associated, etc.

I was using Windows 10, though I’m not sure the specific operating system (OS) mattered. I was also using Q-Dir, a replacement for Windows Explorer (or File Explorer, as it was known in Win10). Q-Dir gave me the option of using it as the default file manager in various places. I decided to try it out. After all, I reasoned, what could possibly go wrong?

As it turned out, there were several answers to that question. These answers came to the fore when I tried to back out, and told Q-Dir not to be the default anymore. It seemed Q-Dir did not restore Windows Explorer as the default file manager for those purposes. So, starting immediately, I began to encounter problems like these:

  • When I tried to open a Windows folder from an Everything file search, I got an error message:

This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Please install a program or, if one is already installed, create an association in the Default Programs control panel.

  • When I tried to open Control Panel via Run > control, weirdly, the third-party utility known as Duplicate File Finder opened instead. This also happened when I tried to open Control Panel from the Start Menu.
  • When I hit Win-X A to open PowerShell, I got another error:

Windows cannot find ‘C:\Users\ray\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Windows PowerShell\Windows PowerShell.lnk’. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again.

That last one may have been my own fault, due to some unrelated tweak. I fixed it by finding PowerShell.exe in C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0, creating a shortcut to it, naming the shortcut Windows PowerShell.lnk, and putting it in the specified folder. Even if I caused that problem, I felt it was only fair to blame the system and Q-Dir anyway, because this was all funky beyond standard operating parameters.

How to remedy this spate of problems? I could have done a System Restore, but it was a fairly new installation and I hadn’t yet gotten around to making a lot of System Restore points. In fact, the last (and only) one dated from nearly a week ago. So I had devoted endless hours to assorted tweaks, and was now looking at losing them all. I had better news on the drive image front: I’d been using Acronis in the not-too-distant past, and if I restored that most recent image, I would lose only half of my endless hours of hard work.

Another possibility was to complain. I thought perhaps the most effective way of complaining was to post this item and send a link to the Q-Dir developer. While that was pending, I also had the option of letting Q-Dir go ahead and be the complete replacement for Windows Explorer in all possible ways and, who knows? maybe coming to prefer it.

Still another possibility, which I didn’t really want to go there, was to run a search and assemble a set of 85 registry tweaks that would allow me to undo each piecemeal thing that had been so unconscionably altered. That sounded like a lot of work. I did get as far as looking at the first couple of hits from that search, though, and saw that someone shared some advice that made me think I could try running SFC /SCANNOW (i.e., System File Checker) at a command prompt. This was the point at which I remembered why PowerShell had come into the mix: it was because I tried opening PowerShell to run that command. But now I had fixed the PowerShell link problem (above), so the command ran. SFC /SCANNOW produced this unfamilar result:

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them. Details are included in the CBS.Log windir\Logs\CBS\CBS.log. For example C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log. Note that logging is currently not supported in offline servicing scenarios.

I opened that CBS.log file in Notepad. It contained a brazilian lines, but only most of them dated from the time when I had run this instance of SFC. I skimmed through. It seemed most notices had to do with dual ownership of folders. At the end, I saw indications that SFC repaired a number of corrupted files, though these just appeared to be .lnk files. I was skeptical this would help and, as so often happens in life, my skepticism was justified: aside from the PowerShell problem that I had fixed myself, the foregoing problems remained in place.

So I tried the option of setting Q-Dir as the default file browser for all purposes. That worked, but only if I went into Q-Dir > Extras > Q-Dir as default browser > Admin > click the As Default Browser for All box at the lower right corner of each of the three tabs > X on the upper-right corner of that dialog to close it. It might actually have been better to have Q-Dir replace File Explorer (which, as it turned out, was still available via Win-E): I liked the display better, once I had customized it, and I found Q-Dir much better at remembering a dozen items I had selected, and not losing them if I sneezed.

Even so, there remained the academic question of how I could get the original Explorer back (i.e., opening File Explorer rather than Q-Dir from an Everything search). While awaiting word from the Q-Dir developer, I went back and looked at the results of that search. I noticed that its top hits led to several different suggestions, leading me to think that this could indeed be a megillah. For the moment, I decided not to go there.

[to be continued]

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