Windows Photo Viewer was first released with Windows XP. Despite being old in terms of software, it still holds up pretty well on Windows 11. If you want to keep using it, you can, it’s not even hard. This is how you can enable Windows Photo Viewer.
How to enable Windows Photo Viewer in Windows 11
Normally there is no way to use Windows Photo Viewer in Windows 11. The software is still included in the operating system, but it is completely disabled. Fortunately for us, there are workarounds. In Windows 10, Windows Photo Viewer could be re-enabled via a registry hack; It turns out that the exact same registry trick also works in Windows 11.
RELATED: Top 7 Registry Hacks for Windows 11
Download the compressed REG files using the link below, and then open the ZIP file in your favorite archive program. File Explorer will work just fine if you don’t have a third-party program, as it’s perfectly capable of extracting ZIP files.
Double-click the ZIP file named “Activate Windows Photo Viewer 11” to open it, then find the REG key named “Activate Windows Photo Viewer in Windows 11.reg.”
Double-click the REG key and you’ll get a popup warning you about the security risks of adding registry keys.
You should be careful with REG files, especially if they are not from a trusted source, as they can be used maliciously. If you’re skeptical of a REG file, and you usually should be, you can check out what it does for yourself. Just open it up in a plain text editor like Notepad and take a look at the log entries it changes. If it’s not immediately obvious what the REG file does, and it usually isn’t, you can always search the Internet for the relevant keys. The Windows Registry is well documented, so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what the entries in the REG file do.
In this case, the REG file comes from us and has been thoroughly tested over many years, so you can be sure that it is not malicious. Just go ahead and click “Yes”.
Windows Photo Viewer has now been enabled. It will appear in all the usual places you’d find a photo viewing app, like the right-click “Open With” list and the Default Programs menu.
How to set Windows Photo viewer as the default photo viewer in Windows 11
Windows 11 comes with the Photos app as the default app for almost all image formats. If you want to switch it to Windows Photo Viewer, there are a few convenient ways to do it.
Right click on an image file to change the default program
You don’t really need to go through the Settings app to change which apps are used to open a certain type of file. Options are built into the right-click context menu.
Right click on a PNG file, go to “Open with” and then click “Choose another application”.
Scroll through the list of apps until you see Windows Photo Viewer listed. You’ll probably need to click “More Apps” for it to appear. Click Windows Photo Viewer once to select it, check the box at the bottom that says “Always use this app to open .png files,” and then click “OK.”
Any PNGs you open afterward will open in Windows Photo Viewer unless you specify otherwise. You’ll need to repeat these steps for each image format (such as JPG or BMP) that you want to open in Windows Photo Viewer. Fortunately, there aren’t too many commons, so it’s not too much work.
Use the default apps window
Windows 11 has a centralized way of managing file formats associated with apps. It’s a really convenient way to set your default apps. Open the Settings app, go to “Apps”, then click “Default apps”.
RELATED: How to set your default apps in Windows 11
Advice: You can also search for “Default Applications” in the search bar of the Start menu.
Type the image format you want in the search bar at the top of the window, such as “.jpg”, then hit the square icon on the right side.
The usual “Open With” window will appear. Scroll down, click “More apps” and then keep scrolling until you reach Windows Photo Viewer. Click once to select it, then press “OK.”
You’ll need to do this for each image format you want to associate with Windows Photo Viewer, but unlike other ways to change the application format association, you don’t actually need an image to right-click.
Remember, just because Windows Photo Viewer is included in Windows 11 doesn’t mean it’s fully supported. It is older software and you may encounter problems with it in the future. It may be completely removed in future updates.