Fix: These files can’t be opened

Some Windows users report that whenever they click on a file they receive the following Windows Security message: “These files can’t be opened. Your Internet security settings prevented one or more files from being opened.Typically, this sort of issue happens for every single executable file that the user tries to open. However, some users report that they encounter this error with every type of file they try to open while others only encounter the problem with several application launchers. This particular issue is fairly common on Windows 7 and Windows 8 (although there have been some reported occurrences on Windows 10).

The causes that will trigger the apparition of the These files can’t be opened error are diverse and can originate from a couple of places. By investigating the issue, we managed to compile a list with the most common culprits that will trigger the These files can’t be opened error:

  • The user has downloaded a file over the internet that was automatically blocked by IE’s download checker – in this case, the solution is to unblock it from the Properties menu.
  • Executable is blocked by a Windows piracy protection feature – in this case, most users have managed to avoid the error by changing the name of the executable.
  • A User Account Control setting is blocking the opening of what the operating system determines as an unsafe application or file – this can either be resolved by relaxing the Internet Security Options or by imputing the series of commands in an Elevated Command Prompt.
  • The error is caused by an Internet Explorer setting – if this is the cause, the problem can be fixed by resetting Internet Explorer settings.
  • The issue is caused by a glitched Windows account profile – in this case, the resolution is to either create a new administrator account and use that or import it’s new Internet Settings key to your regular account and continue using your old one.

If you’re struggling with the  These files can’t be opened error, we have prepared a collection of fixes that other users in a similar situation have used to resolve the issue. Please follow each fix in order until you encounter a method that resolves the problem in your particular situation. Let’s begin!

Method 1: Unblock the file from the Properties menu

The most common cause for the apparition of this issue is a blocked attribute in the properties menu. If you’re only getting the These files can’t be opened error with several executable, it’s possible that they refuse to open because they are blocked. This typically happens if you copy an executable over the internet or if you transfer it from one computer to another.

Luckily, you can easily modify the properties on each blocked file so you can open it without the These files can’t be opened error. Here’s a quick guide on how to do this:

  1. Navigate to the location of the file that displays the These files can’t be opened error, right-click on it and choose Properties.
  2. In the Properties window, go to the General tab and either click the Unblock button or make sure that the box associated with Unblock is checked (depending on your Windows version).
  3. Once the file is unblocked, hit Apply to confirm your changes, then close the properties window and double-click on the file. You will be able to open it without the These files can’t be opened error.

If the file was already unblocked or you encounter this issue with all executables, move down to the method below.

Method 2: Change the name of the executable

If you used Method 1 to check if the files were blocked (and it wasn’t), it could be that you’re the victim of a rudimentary protection mechanism that some Windows versions use. This was meant as a protection mechanism to limit the reach of pirated software, but it often ends up creating issues with freeware applications created by independent developers.

To test this theory, right-click on the executable, choose Rename and grant it a different generic name. Once you rename the executable, save your changes and open the executable again. You should be able to open it without the These files can’t be opened error. If you’re still struggling with the same issue, move down to Method 3.

Method 3: Allowing “unsafe files” via Internet Properties

Depending on your internet settings, you might have different security levels that might not allow you to open applications that are considered unsafe by your operating system. If you get the These files can’t be opened error while opening an executable that you consider to be safe, you can lower the Security level for unsafe applications so that the Windows Security prompt will no longer appear.

But keep in mind that going this route will leave your system open to other security attacks if you’re not careful which applications you download and open on your pc. Here’s a quick guide on how to lower security settings in order to allow applications and files that are considered unsafe:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a Run box. Then, type “inetcpl.cpl” and hit Enter to open Internet Options.
  2. In the Internet Properties Window, go to the Security tab and click on the Custom Level button.
  3. In the next window, scroll down through the Settings list and change the drop-down menu associated with Launching applications and unsafe files to Prompt. Note: If you’re not experiencing the error with executable, you can do the same thing with XPS documents, Allow Scriptlets, File Download, and Font Download.
  4. Close the Internet Properties screen and reboot your computer. At the next startup, open the file that was displaying the These files can’t be opened error. You should have no issues doing this anymore.

If you’re still encountering the These files can’t be opened error when opening certain applications, move over to Method 4

Method 4: Allowing “unsafe files” via an Elevated Command Prompt

All the most recent Windows versions have protection mechanism that is supposed to make it harder for the end user to install an application that could jeopardize the security of the system. However, the system is flawed and might end up blocking applications that are safe from being used. One way to tackle this problem is to use deploy a simple Registry hack via an Elevated Command Prompt. Here’s a quick guide on how to use a few commands in a Command Prompt to get around the These files can’t be opened error:

  1. Open a Run box by pressing Windows key + R. Then, type “cmd” in the run box and hit Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open and click Yes at the UAC prompt to open an Elevated Command Prompt.
  2. In the Elevated Command Prompt, insert the following commands in order and press Enter after each one:
    reg add "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Associations" /v "DefaultFileTypeRisk" /t REG_DWORD /d "1808" /f
    
    reg add "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Attachments" /v "SaveZoneInformation" /t REG_DWORD /d "1" /f
  3. Once both commands have been registered, close the Elevated Command Prompt and reboot your computer. At the next startup, open a file that was previously displaying the These files can’t be opened error. You should be able to open it without errors.

If you’re still seeing the These files can’t be opened error when you try to open certain applications, move down to the method below.

Method 5: Resetting Internet Explorer 

As some users have pointed out, this issue might also be caused by Internet Explorer if you’re using it as the default browser. Users in a similar situation have managed to finally resolve the These files can’t be opened error by resetting IE’s settings.

Here’s a quick guide on how to reset your Internet Explorer settings:

  1. Open Internet Explorer and click on the tools button (cogwheel icon in the top-right corner).
  2. From the Tools menu, click on Internet options.
  3. In the Internet Options window, go to the Advanced tab and click the Reset button.
  4. If you want to preserve your personal settings (home page, passwords, cookies), uncheck Delete personal settings and click the Reset button.
  5. Once the Internet Explorer settings have been reset, restart your computer and see whether you can open files without the These files can’t be opened error at the next restart.
    Note: It might be worth a shot to repeat this procedure and delete your personal settings if you don’t see any change.

If you’re still struggling with the These files can’t be opened error, move down to Method 6.

Method 6: Import Internet Settings key from a new admin account

Apparently, the These files can’t be opened error can also be attributed to corruption within the Registry keys of Internet Settings. Some users struggling with the same type of error have managed to resolve the issue by creating a new user admin account, exporting the internet settings key and then importing the same key back into their regular account.

Here’s a quick guide on importing the Internet Settings key from a new admin account:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a new Run box. Then, type “netplwiz” and hit Enter to open the Advanced User Accounts window.
  2. In the User Accounts window go to the User menu and click the Add button.
  3. Choose Sign-in without a Microsoft Account, then click on Local Account and follow the on-screen prompts to create a new user account.
  4. Then, return to the User Accounts window, select the newly created account and click the Properties button.
  5. In the Properties window of the newly created user account, go to the Group Membership and move it to the Administrators group. Don’t forget to hit Apply to save the changes.
  6. Press Windows key + R to open up another Run box. Then, type “regedit” and hit Enter to open Registry Editor.
  7. In Registry Editor, navigate to the following key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Internet Settings
  8. Right-click on Internet Settings and choose Export.
  9. Choose an easy to access to store the .reg file of Internet Settings and hit Save.
  10. Close Registry Editor and log out from the newly created user account, then log in to your old one (the one that is experiencing the These files can’t be opened error).
  11. Press Windows key + R to open up another Run box. Then, type “regedit” and hit Enter to open Registry Editor. Then, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Internet Settings and remove the entire Internet Settings key by right-clicking and choosing Delete.
  12. Once the Internet Settings key has been deleted, go over to the location where you previously exported the key from the old account and double-click on it. Hit Yes at the UAC prompt and then click Yes again to confirm.
  13. Once the exported key has been run, close Registry Editor and reboot your PC. At the next startup, see if you’re able to run the files without the These files can’t be opened error.

If you’re still struggling with the same error, move over to the final method.

Method 7: Using a System Restore point

If all of the methods above have proven to be a bust, you have one more shot before you can begin contemplating a clean Windows install or reset. System Restore is a built-in Windows mechanism that will allow you to restore your computer to a previous state in time.

If you only started to get the These files can’t be opened error recently, you can use a system restore point dated before the issue first started occurring to restore your computer to a healthy state.

Here’s a quick guide on using a System Restore point to go around the These files can’t be opened error:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a Run box. Then, type “rstrui” and hit Enter to open the System Restore wizard.
  2. In the System Restore window, click on Next at the first prompt, then check the box associated with Show more restore points to get the full picture with all available System restore points.
  3. Select a restore point that is dated prior to when you first started experiencing the These files can’t be opened error when opening certain types of files, then hit Next to proceed further.
  4. Once everything is in place, click on Finish to start the restoring process. At the end of this process, your PC will restart and the old state will be reinitiated at the next startup. You should then be able to open executables and other types of files without the  These files can’t be opened error.
Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

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Fix: These files can’t be opened

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