Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Windows Picture and FAX Viewer is the default application for viewing images under Windows. But there are many other programs out there as well.

How do I make something other than "Picture and FAX Viewer" the default for viewing pictures?

I'm sure that Microsoft believes they're being helpful by providing this default viewer for graphics images. But in reality this is a common question I get and it's one of several things I "fix" when I install a new copy of Windows XP. It's not difficult to change, just a tad cumbersome.

If, when you try to view a picture, it's displayed in the "Picture and FAX Viewer", do the following:

  • Note what the file extension is. That's the ".jpg", ".gif", and so on at the end of the filename. It indicates the type of picture and more importantly it's what Windows uses to decide what program to use to display it.

  • Close "Picture and FAX Viewer".

  • Open up Windows Explorer. (The Windows Key + E, on many keyboards.)

  • Find any file with that same extension. It's handy if it's the same file but it doesn't have to be.

  • Right-click on the filename and select Open With ....

  • Even if the program you want is already listed don't click on it. Instead, select Choose Program at the bottom of the list that's displayed.

  • In the resulting dialog box, click on the program you want to use to view pictures.

  • Check the box labeled "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file".

  • Press OK

"'s one of several things I 'fix' when I install a new copy of Windows XP."

This made your selection permanent. That particular type of image file will now be opened with the program you've selected.

The only down side to this approach is that you'll need to repeat it for each different image type (file extension) that you typically view. Fortunately that's usually only a handful.

You can also change the program used per extension by visiting Tools, Folder Options, File Types in Windows explorer, but personally I find this technique using Open With ... and Always use ... to be easier and quicker.


View Selecting a Different Image Viewer and watch as I walk you through the Tools, Folder Options method of making this change.

Article C1909 - March 18, 2004 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 25, 2005 8:22 AM


Yury P
October 29, 2005 1:16 PM

I recently got a new computer with Windows XP on it, everything is pretty much the same as my old PC which also had XP on it, but it seems as if the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer has changed. Before it had an additional toolbar that let me resize, crop, and edit pictures. Now, it is nowhere to be found. Anyone have any idea on this? Thanks, Yury

Jim G.
January 1, 2006 4:12 PM

I've tried everything I can think of or ideas I've found but nothing or no one seems to be able to help. My picture and fax viewer doesn't work. When I click on a folder with pics in it and try to view the thumbnail pics, all I get is a square box with a little picture of a sailboat and sunset in it. When I double click or try to open the pics I get nothing. I click on a pic one time and it highlights itself with a blue frame around it and thats it...

Jordan S.
January 9, 2006 8:14 AM

I have the same problem as Jim G.
I am unable to view any images in explorer; I can't preview them on the bar on the left, the thumbnail doesn't display, and windows fax and picture viewer doesn't work(slide shows, etc).
This problem started occurring after I updated my XP SP2.
Any help would be great.

January 26, 2006 9:20 AM

Great fix...albeit simple enough, I've overlooked that......Thank you so much..

January 26, 2006 3:48 PM

Ahh, i'm having the same exact problem as Jim and Jordan...sort of. When I double click any image (doesn't matter what extension it is) it won't open up in Picture and FAX Viewer anymore, and it used to...So when I want to view pictures I can't. Any help would be appreciated.

January 27, 2006 11:09 AM

I have the same problem as Jim, Jordan, and Shawn.

January 28, 2006 9:07 AM

I've got my problem solved, so for Jim, Jordan and Darwin try this: Click on the Start Menu -> Go to Run... and type in regsvr32 /i shimgvw.dll and hit OK.

(I found this in another tutorial, )

February 3, 2006 8:30 PM

Hi Shawn,

I had the same issue and it got resolved with the solution you posted. Thanks a million.

Ted M.
February 10, 2006 4:33 PM

Hey, Shawn,

Thank you so much! I also had the same problem with
Windows Picture and Fax Viewer not responding.
I entered your script, and the viewer WAS RESTORED!
Thanks again, buddy!

February 11, 2006 2:02 PM

Hi Leo,

Based on your suggestion on you February 7, 2006 10:39 AM post, you use and recommend Firehand Ember. Since I couldnít get WPFV to work on my Win2K machine, I decided to go for your suggestion. I downloaded Firehand Ember and its companion software Firehand Lightning. I had the following experience.

First, Ember was a viewer but did not have a ďrotateĒ option unless you get the paid version. Both Ember and Lightning did not meet my needs so I uninstalled them. Second, as a normal part of pc maintenance, I ran a DEEP/Full scan using Lavasoft, Spybot and Microsoftís Anti-Spyware (MSAS). Lavasoft and Spybot did not pick up anything other than adware. However, MSAS found a password stealing Trojan (PWS.Bancos.A) and classified the treat as severe. This Trojan had embedded itself into the system registry and I had to clean it. Afterwards, my companyís network Norton Anti Virus program no longer worked and our tech support still has to fix it. I also no longer am able to successfully update MSAS definitions since each time I do so, it says it is successful downloading the latest update but when I try it again, MSAS re-downloads the same update. Redownloading MSAS did not fix that issue either.

Although I can not say definitively that my Win2K got the Trojan through Firehandís software, I had not downloaded any other software on my Win2K machine anytime recently. I also did a scan on my 2nd WinXP machine (which sits side by side with my Win2K machine) which I did not download the Firehandís software and it's scan came up clean. For me to definitively say that Firehandís software was the culprit for the Password Stealing Trojan, I would have to reinstall the two Firehand software after I cleaned my machine and rescan. Having encountered other problems (and considering Password stealing software scares me greatly), I donít want to do this test. Just a word of warning to those who plan to download free software from unfamiliar sources, downloader beware!

After all this, I downloaded Googleís free picture viewer/editor Picasa. From what I have seen, I love it. It has viewing, rotating, editing (contrast, color, red eye removal, etc.) capabilities and a lot more. The only thing I didnít like was it automatically scanned in ALL pictures in my computer. Wanting to have full control of what Picasa has access to, I just went in and changed the setting of which folders I want Picasa to scan and quickly make available to you. My recommendation, download Picasa. It is great (and free).


March 21, 2006 1:07 AM

Thank you Shawn. I had the same problem with my windows picture and fax viewer which is now solved thanks to you.

John Reineman
March 21, 2006 7:36 PM

Your suggestion on how to restore the picture and fax viewer worked perfectly! Thank you for your expertise!

March 28, 2006 3:55 AM

Hey shawn ,my hats off to you m8 ,that problems been on my back for over a month now ,thanks alot



abhay zulkanthiwar
March 29, 2006 8:32 PM

pls give me file nae that use windows picture and fax viewer application
for ex. if we user microsoft word then it user winword.exe applciation files

May 14, 2006 12:57 PM

hi i have been trying to download windows picture and fax viewer.
i did have it but for some reason my pictures will not preview,
all i see is a pic of a boat in the sunset.
so when i try to upload pics to my site i cant please help

Sheila Kinney
May 31, 2006 7:45 AM

Dear Leo,
My question is opposite. I want my default to be windows picture and fax viewer. It was my default until I installed Photo Explosion and then that software took over. I had so much trouble with it that I finally had to uninstall it. When I did, the default picture opener became some fragment of a piece of software that I had removed over a year ago. I can go to 'open with' dropdown and it will go to windows pictures and fax viewer, but I want it as default. Also, and maybe most important, when I emailed a picture or scanned document from windows pictures and fax viewer, there was a pop up box that would come up automatically and ask if I wanted to resize the picture. I ALWAYS used it so the pictures would send quickly and they could be opened and weren't too big. Now that feature does now come up! I am in a world of hurt without that as I send a lot of artwork in my business. Please, Please tell me how to make windows picture and fax veiwer my default and restore the pop up resizer! I have done two computer searches and can't even find were it is installed so I can put in the exe. path. P.S. I have XP Pro.
Thanks very much for your help,
Sheila Kinney

Leo A. Notenboom
May 31, 2006 9:09 AM

I believe you want this article:

June 11, 2006 12:51 AM

Hi Leo This is a related question. I DO want WPFV to be my defult viewer, and it is - BUT, I want to open Adobe Photoshop, when I press the Edit Image button (Last but one -ie just b4 the question mark - on the toolbar below the pic in WPFV.) This USED to work, but stopped after some other change... Can you help, pls? Many thanks, Martin

September 1, 2006 8:20 PM

help. i'new to this so please be gentle. when I get apic from somone [email] often it is a thumbnail. to see it i clk on scan and save then i have to click on download atachment, then the pic appears on the sceen in the "microsof pics and fax window. problem is there are hundreds of odd ball pics sines dots ,and partial images. thers porn dots bits and pieces of logos..... hundreds of them. also I cant access this any other waybut thru email whats up how do istop it and how do i erasethi garbage thax aj

Roman Haraburda
December 8, 2006 12:29 PM

Un fortunately your simple fix does not work for microsoft Photoeditor. Even messing with the registry and changing file types did not make photoed.exe the default viewer and image editor.

In addition, with me messing about with the registry, I think that I have manged to dissociate MS paint from WP&F viewer i.e. if I open an image with WP&F viewer, clicking on the edit icon, the WP&F viewers closes but NO image editor opens. Can you help with either problem?
Hope you can help.



March 31, 2007 7:14 AM

Using the right mouse button and selecting a viewer would not work for me. XP would always try to use Notepad if I tried this approach. Using the Tools/Folder options approach worked fine.

Terry Hollett
March 31, 2007 2:26 PM

I had to disable that piece of crap called the 'picture/fax viewer'. It wouldn't let me change and use my choice of program 'ACDSee'.

to do this:
click on 'Run' and then type in the box:

regsvr32 -u %windir%\system32\shimgvw.dll

I was setting up WinXP on my nephews computer for them and discovered one fault of this procedure, you cannot change your picture on your account.

to reverse it:

regsvr32 %windir%\system32\shimgvw.dll

One question: I noticed on your page you have certain words underlined and when you pass the mouse over them a ballon ad appears. When I do this in 'Opera', the fonts go crazy; then get large and start merging together. Becomes a jumbled mess. Refreshing clears it up unless I do it again.

I also have the 'Seamonkey' browser on my system. It seems to be just an 'Opera' issue.

WinXP Home and 'Opera 9.10' - the latest version.


Rick Huff
April 28, 2007 8:17 PM

I do want Windows Picture and Fax Viewer to be the default image viewer, but I want to change the Edit Picture button from Paint to Photoshop, how can this be done while keeping WPFV the default?

May 22, 2007 11:49 PM

hi, when i open a file in hotmail with pictures attached they are displayed as a box with a red "x" in the corner. how can i view it in the first hotmail screen, without having to click on the file itself to download it?

August 1, 2007 2:27 AM

when i am trying to open my pictures with windows picture and fax viewer i am getting this error "Error in loading shimgvw.dll". How can i overcome this problem?Please help me.

Francisco Leo Hortillosa
August 8, 2007 1:22 AM

When I am trying to download my picture in the required box,it won't print and I can't send it ,even do how many times I have tried it.I Installed it in my computer as Picture.jpg under "Piicture and Fax Viewer" Can you help me how to download it in appropiate box

Boyd Campbell
September 6, 2007 11:17 AM

So here's one for you: I already knew everything you've said in this article. However, concerning my GIF files, when I check the "Always use the selected program..." checkbox and click ok, it'll open the file that one time in my app (IE 7). But after that, it auto-defaults back to Windows Pic & Fax viewer. I even unregistered the DLL as stated above. Now, when you double click the file, the hourglass flashes for a split second and then nothing happens. I've been up and down looking at everything I could find to make the change go. Could it possibly have something to do with IE 7? Thanks much for any help you can lend!

November 1, 2007 1:17 AM

Thanks for your help. You answered other peoples questions and therefore helped me. Sincere thanks

Andrť Beausťjour
February 5, 2008 2:59 PM

I don't like W.P.&F.V. because every damn picture I happen to see anywhere on the web and/or receive through e-mail as an attached document goes into the WPFV memory of which I did not find any way of getting rid of AT ONCE.

April 15, 2008 8:21 AM

i use windows fax for my fax. when i clickon view, adobe photoshop opens the file with only the first page showing.
how do i get it to show all the pages? how do i change the viewer to some other program? like windows pic and fax view?
a fast answer is appreciated.

February 5, 2009 3:34 PM

Hi. I was wondering if you could please help me. I created a folder and had some 250 photos of my grandchildren, which they always opened in Adobe Photoshop CS2. I have since included an additional 250 photos in this same folder, making it 500 odd photos, but now they all, including the once that used to open in Adobe Photoshop now open only in Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. Can you please tell me how can I make all of these photo open in Adobe Photoshop and not the other program. I know that I can disable Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, but this will also delete or disable thumbnails, which I don't want to delete. Can you please help me.

Thanks for your time,


April 4, 2009 2:34 PM


lonely lama
July 9, 2009 4:04 AM

my pictures does not display....what's the reason?? is the cause virus if then which virus and what should we do for it????

Paul Rostowsky
February 27, 2010 12:33 PM

How do I opened a ".pps" file that is send to me in Outlook Express? I get the message that there is no program associated with the file. Well, there is and its properly associated in the File Options. Now, if I save the PPS to my Desktop, the Power Point Viewer open it immediately.

October 20, 2010 1:01 PM

win xp sp3. i followed your directions for changing jpg viewing to my prefered program (i.s., psp.exe).
it opened psp.exe with the jpg in it. i closed that.

the icon didnt change for jpg files. AND if iclick on a jpg file it opened up in XXXX windows picture and fax viewer.


i even tried to delete and rename shimg...dll ... but i ALWAYS COMES BACK.

i am at a loss here . i never have had a problem like this before. i wanted delet the JPG type and put in as new but it will not remove .

... rebooted eariler and previously GREYED OUT "always use the slected program ..." is now open taking a check ... but doesnt really do anything to windows pnf viewer.

rafael diaz
August 27, 2011 4:08 PM

okay i have nero photo snap viewer and i want to change to window fax viewer,what i has to do in my computer.
thank you
rafael diaz

Joan Renslow
April 22, 2012 11:06 AM

I recently went into Windows picture and fax viewer to enlarge an image. Don't know what I did, but now when I try to view my pictures, some of them will no enlarge when I click on them, others will. How do I change it back to enlarge when I click? Thanks

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