How to Enable Windows Photo Viewer in Windows 11

You can enable Windows Photo Viewer in Windows 11, if you are not happy with the default Photos app used since Windows 10. Microsoft is using the Photos app as the default image viewer. Luckily, the classic Windows Photo Viewer remains available. You just need to activate it to get it working.

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The only problem here is that Microsoft has removed default file associations for the Windows Photo Viewer app. Due to this change, you cannot simply go and select the app as your default image handler.

Luckily it is easy to fix. All you need to do is to add the appropriate entries to the Registry under the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Photo Viewer\Capabilities\FileAssociations. Here's how it can be done.

Restore Windows Photo Viewer In Windows 11

Enable Windows Photo Viewer in Windows 11

To enable the classic Windows Photo Viewer app in Windows 11, you need to perform a number of steps. First of all, you need to activate the app in the Registry. Second, you need to associate the image files with Windows Photo Viewer and set it as the default app for them. Optionally, you can add the Preview context menu item that invokes the classic Photoviewer app.

Enable the Classic Windows Photo Viewer app

  1. Download these Registry files in a ZIP archive.
  2. Extract the included REG files to any folder.
  3. Double-click the Enable Classic Photo Viewer.reg file and confirm the merge operation.Enable the Classic Windows Photo Viewer app
  4. Once you add the contents of the REG to the Registry, you need to set file associations to Windows Photo Viewer.

The Registry file restores the system registration and enables the Windows Photo Viewer app. Also, the ZIP archive includes an undo tweak, Disable Classic Photo Viewer.reg. It allows you to restore Windows 11 defaults and undone the Photo Viewer app registration in the OS. Here's how it works.

How does it work

The Registry file re-creates the missing "capabilities" for the Photo Viewer. Specially, it "tells" the app that it can handle the following file types:

  • ".bmp"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.BITMAP"
  • ".dib"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.BITMAP"
  • ".jpg"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.JPEG"
  • ".jpe"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.JPEG"
  • ".jpeg"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.JPEG"
  • ".jxr"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.JPEG"
  • ".jfif"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.JFIF"
  • ".wdp"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.WDP"
  • ".png"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.PNG"
  • ".gif"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.TIFF"
  • ".tiff"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.TIFF"
  • ".tif"="PhotoViewer.FileAssoc.TIFF"

These entries must be added under the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Photo Viewer\Capabilities\FileAssociations.

Quick tip: Winaero Tweaker users can enable Windows Photo Viewer in Windows 11 with one click. In the left pane of the app, navigate to Get Classic Apps > Activate Windows Photo Viewer.

Enable Windows Photo Viewer in Winaero Tweaker

Click on the on the button of the same name, and voila - the app is now enabled!

But that won't make it open images in File Explorer and other apps. Let's fix that.

Make Windows Photo Viewer the default image app

There are two methods to make it your default image viewer. The first method is very simple. Once you activated the app, you can open any image, and specify Windows Photo Viewer in the Open File dialog. The other method involves the Settings app.

Method 1 - Using File Explorer

  1. Open File Explorer (Press Win + E).
  2. Double-click any image file with a PNG extension. You will now see the following dialog.
  3. Click on the Windows Photo Viewer item in the list of available apps.
  4. Check the Always use this app to open .png files option and click on OK.Set Windows Photo Viewer As Default App
  5. Repeat the steps 1-2 for jpg, jpeg, bmp, and any other image file types you need to open with the classic Photo Viewer app.

You are done! The Windows Photo Viewer is now set as the default image app for all file types you opened manually.

Alternatively, you can use the Settings app for the same.

Method 2 - the Settings app

  1. Open Windows Settings by pressing Win + I or using any other method.
  2. Click on Apps on the left.
  3. Click on Default apps in the right pane.Windows Settings Apps Default Apps In Windows 11
  4. Scroll down the list of installed apps to Windows Photo Viewer and click on it.Find the app In Default Apps
  5. On the next app, set it as the default app for each of the listed file types.Set Windows Photo Viewer As Default Viewer In Settings

This will fully enable Windows Photo Viewer in Windows 11. You could stop here, but here is one more thing to get done.

Add Image Preview context menu for Photo Viewer in Windows 11

If you remember, the classic Photo Viewer app in Windows 7 had a "Preview" command for images. The context menu invokes the following command:

rundll32.exe "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Photo Viewer\PhotoViewer.dll", ImageView_Fullscreen <file path>

The great thing about this context entry is that it works even when a different app is set as your image viewer. E.g. you could have the default Photos app to open images, and the "Image Preview" context menu will always open the selected picture in Windows Photo Viewer.

Windows Photo Viewer Image Preview In Context Menu

Sounds not bad, right?

To add Image Preview context menu for Photo Viewer in Windows 11, do the following.

  1. Download a ZIP archive with this link.
  2. Extract two REG files to any directory of your choice.
  3. Open the Image Preview.reg file.
  4. Confirm the addition of the changes to the Registry.
  5. Now, right-click any image, and select Show more options > Image Preview from the context menu. This will open the image in classic Windows Photo Viewer.Add Image Preview context menu

The ZIP archive you have downloaded also contains an undo REG file, Undo Image Preview.reg. You can double-click at any moment to remove the newly added 'Image Preview' option from the context menu.

I would like to say thanks to our reader "ThePhinx" for the context menu tweak.

That's how you enable the Windows Photo Viewer app in Windows 11.

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