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May 31, 2017

Managing the Default PDF Handler on Win 10 for Enterprise Administrators


Prior to Windows 10, Adobe Acrobat and Reader would establish default association with PDF files during the installation process. So once installed, if a user clicked on a PDF file, it would automatically open up in Acrobat or Reader. This association was done for all users logging into the system. Post Windows 10, Microsoft recommends that applications do not take over file type associations programmatically and let the user make the choice. Acrobat and Reader honor this and the installers do not take over PDF file type association on install. This does make it tricky for Enterprises, where Admins want strict control over which application is used to open PDF files. Even if the Admin/user sets Acrobat or Reader as the default PDF handler, users frequently encounter that the associations are being reset to OS default without their deliberate action.


For Enterprise Admins, there are two ways to reliably set the default PDF handler to Acrobat and/or Reader:

  1. DISM: Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) is a Microsoft provided command line tool for configuring Windows Images prior to deployment. When creating OS images admins can use DISM tool to manage file type associations. This way whenever the image is installed and a new user logs in, the file associations will be based on what the admin specifies.
  2. Enforcement via Group Policy: Using Group policy admins can force file associations each time a user logs in. This way even if a user changes the default PDF handler in a particular session or an OS update changes it, the next time the user logs in, it will be changed back to what the admin has specified.

For more details on both of these solutions, please refer to Setting the Default PDF Viewer in the enterprise administration guide. As for an end-user, changing the PDF file association to Acrobat or Reader can be accomplished in two easy steps.

We are all ears to know if these solutions helped, or if there are any suggestions!

Acrobat, Deployment Tips

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