Suppose I am running cmd and I open an application by typing for example start document.pdf

I want to get the exact path of the executable that opens .pdf files

Of course I could search the entire system for the executable but I suppose it would be faster this way because the path is already stored somewhere

I don't know if it makes a difference but I am using Windows 7


Sadly the exe locations are usually defined in the registry for example. I have .txt defined as opening with "notepad++".

So to find what the association of the file is, I'd have to go to:

"Open Control Panel > Control Panel Home > Default Programs > Set Associations".

From there it'd show Notepad++ is my default program.

I'd then have to go to the registry for Notepad++ e.g.:


And see the complete file location there something like:

C:\Program Files\Notepad++


Every program you install typically has a registry associated with it, where it can be configured. Most programs details can be found in:


So you'd need to use regedit.exe to these locations, find your program and view the location of the exe

  • Can you develop a bit more on the "go to the registry for Notepad++" part? – gsmafra Aug 27 '15 at 8:49
  • Edited the main post – Jay Aug 27 '15 at 8:54
  • Small observation: my program was not listed in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ or HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node so I ran the ctrl+f command to find it – gsmafra Aug 27 '15 at 9:23
  • It's not for certain - it's just the typical location. It can vary quite a bit. – Jay Aug 27 '15 at 9:26

You can get this information using two command line tools: assoc and ftype:

help assoc
Displays or modifies file extension associations

help ftype
Displays or modifies file types used in file extension associations

You can combine them to produce information you need:
for /f "delims== tokens=2" %a in ('assoc .pdf') do @ftype %a

Running this directly from command line should give you path and parameters of program registered for .pdf files

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