Fix: What To Do if Removing a Virus Blocks Executable (.EXE) Files From Opening

I have recently observed that after removing certain fake anti-spyware viruses (such as “Windows Security Center” or “Anti Virus 2010″), all executable (.exe) files will no longer open.  No matter what file you try to open – iTunes, Firefox, or even Malwarebytes – they will not open because they are all .exe files.

To fix this problem, I came across a process that fixes the registry keys that have been changed due to this virus.

The Problem

When attempting to open any executable file, you see the image shown below.  It is a notification asking you to choose what program you would like to open the file with, which means Windows does not understand how to open .exe files.

The Solution

Disclaimer: Before you start this guide, please keep in mind that this is an advanced procedure and you could potentially end up doing more harm than good by following this guide.  If you are not comfortable with the procedures mentioned in this guide, please call your computer’s manufacturer for support or bring it to an authorized PC technician.  We can take no responsibility for damage done to your system by following this guide.

Step 1: Open the Run dialog box by going to Start -> Run or pressing WIN + R.  Then open the command prompt by typing “command” (instead of typing “cmd” because “cmd” links to an .exe file which will not open).  “Command” links to a .com file which is not affected by the virus.

Step 2: Once you have opened the Command Prompt, type “regedit” and hit enter.

If you can’t open regedit (which is certainly possible because it is an executable file itself), try typing the following commands, one at a time, and press enter after each one.

cd \

cd \windows

copy regedit.exe regedit.com

start regedit.com

This makes a copy of regedit in the form of a .com file so it can be opened.

Step 3: As a precaution you should back up your registry.  To do this, go to File->Export to save a backup file.  You should save this backup to a USB flash drive or other type of portable media just in case you can’t access your hard drive.

Leave the Registry Editor open after you have made a backup because you may need it in the next step.

Step 4: You will now need to run a special registry file that will re-establish the file associations for executable files.  This file is specially tailored for your operating system, so make sure you use the correct file.  You will need to right click these files and select Save As to download them to your computer.

After downloading the correct file for your operating system, you need to try opening it to add those values to the registry.

a) You can first try double clicking the file (or right clicking it and selecting Merge).  If this works you can skip to Step 5.

b) If a) didn’t work, go back to the Registry Editor which you opened in Step 2 and go to File -> Import.  Navigate to the .reg file you downloaded and select it.

c) If neither of those worked, check out the final section of this guide for more help.  Windows XP users can check out this guide which offers the registry fix in a .COM file format.

Step 5: If you were able to successfully install the registry fix for your operating system, you should be good to go now.  Restart your computer and try opening any executable files to see if it worked.

If you encounter problems after changing your registry, you can restore the backup you made in Step 3.

If you still have problems

I’ve dealt with a few computers that have been afflicted with this problem, and I have discovered that there is a tremendous amount of variability that can occur.  If this guide wasn’t able to help you, I recommend checking out the following guides which offer more solutions:

If you’re still stuck after that, post in the comments below and provide as much information as possible.

Remember, if in doubt: call your computer’s manufacturer for support or contact an authorized PC technician.  We can take no responsibility for damage done to your system by following this guide.

  • Gonzo

    Wow you are so smart! This really helped me out today!

  • Gonzo

    Wow you are so smart! This really helped me out today!

  • joe

    work perfectly THANK YOU!!!!

  • joe

    work perfectly THANK YOU!!!!

  • Ken

    AMAZING … I've been struggling with this for the past week. I appreciate your knowlege!

  • Ken

    AMAZING … I've been struggling with this for the past week. I appreciate your knowlege!

  • Jermey

    I cant even open comman. please help!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/evanw Evan Wondrasek

      Hi Jeremy,

      Have you tried opening 'command' in Safe Mode?

  • Jermey

    I cant even open comman. please help!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/evanw Evan Wondrasek

      Hi Jeremy,

      Have you tried opening 'command' in Safe Mode?

  • Happyteacher

    Omg… I love you both. I could manage to remove the insidious crap from my work comp. but I really hate bringing it to tech support. They judge me and mock me, then just wipe the drive clean and I have to reset everything back the way I like it and lose all of my files.

    You saved my but.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Taylor-Duncan/100000502233062 Taylor Duncan

    I plan on pursuing a minor in computer science. Is there any advice you could give me or books to recommend? Computers have always interested me and I intend obtaining as much knowledge as possible so I would be able to overcome problems on the the job and assist friends, because they already come to me for their troubleshooting. And one friend came to me with this problem and I wasn't able to help.

  • http://www.techerator.com Evan W.

    Hey Taylor,

    One thing you need to consider about Computer Science is that it *isn't* working with computers very much – it's more about programming, logic, algorithms, and mathematics. In my computer science coursework, we didn't study anything about fixing computers or how to use computers, instead we studies languages like Java, C++, Assembly, and Perl, as well as studying computer science theory involving databases and algorithms.

    If you're looking to work with computers (rather than to write code), you might want to look into the fields of IT (Information Technology) or ISYS (Information Systems). In these fields you'll work with computers on more of a practical standpoint, which it seems you might be interested in.

    I haven't taken any ISYS or IT classes, but I worked as an IT technician for 4 years in college – fixing computers, making websites, and working on the network – and I can tell you my computer science (or electrical engineering) background had nothing to do with that type of work.

    As for Computer Science material, you'll basically get a crash course when you start. I went in with some self-taught programming experience which helped, but once you learn “how to program” you can basically program in any language after learning the syntax.

    Hope some of that helps!

    Evan

  • Taylor Duncan

    Thanks, your reply really helped me with my definitions. Looks like I been staring in the wrond direction. And by the way, I like yal's site! It's got some pretty good information written in here. I'm going to be looking here for future reference.

  • http://www.techerator.com Evan W.

    Glad to hear, thanks for reading!

  • Taylor Duncan

    Thanks, your reply really helped me with my definitions. Looks like I been staring in the wrond direction. And by the way, I like yal's site! It's got some pretty good information written in here. I'm going to be looking here for future reference.

  • http://www.techerator.com Evan W.

    Glad to hear, thanks for reading!

  • Rnowak1102

    I removed the fake anti-spyware viruses and had the problem decribed above where no executable files would open on my laptop. I didn’t even have internet access on that computer so I downloaded the Registry Fix to a flash drive using my desktop and copied it to the laptop.
    It worked perfect. I can’t thank you enough as I worked on this for over 3 hours yesterday.

  • http://www.techerator.com Evan Wondrasek

    I’m glad to hear it helped!

  • Blackhoof

    thank you it worked perfectly 😀

  • Lee

    Thank you so much… I thought my computer was done for.

  • Aa_freaky_11

    I did this, but regedit.com won’t open. it won’t do anything. double click it, the mouse changes to loading for a second, then, nothing. what should i do now?

    • http://www.techerator.com Evan Wondrasek

      Does launching regular regedit (without the.com) work from the command prompt?

  • Roark

    Thank you.  You rock.

  • Flipper828

    Yes, thank you!  Once I found you, it took me a total of 10 minutes to fix! 

  • Patrick

    what happens if the “command” file is not recognized?

    • Spitinkitten

      I had the same problem with a computer I was working on. I don’t know if it is recommended, but I copied the reg file to the desktop of the infected computer from a flash drive. I double clicked it and confirmed that I wanted to run it. It came back and said that not all values could be copied because some were in use. I clicked ok again. But, I am able to open up exe files now, and I was able to open internet explorer and go to antivirus.com and do an online scan for viruses and remove them. So, I skipped a lot of steps but the computer was toast anyway. Now it is all fixed :)

      • http://www.techerator.com Evan Wondrasek

        Thanks for the great feedback!

  • Knaserian

    I can access everything through my Admin User, so should I do the above process while in that User mode or go back to my regular User mode first (where the virus destroyed my access to exe registry)?  I don’t want to lose access in my Admin User too!

    • http://www.techerator.com Evan Wondrasek

      Either should be fine, as long as the affected user also has admin privileges.

  • Aprilrobin5

    OMG! Thank you!! After spending hours trying to fix my computer on my own I downloaded the fix and it worked!! I can’t believe it was so quick and easy. I am sooo grateful!

  • Quino1118

    You are a god amongst men. thanks a bunch. you rock…i’ve only been at this 3 hours.

  • Risiblezhang

    Hello,

    I know this is two years but I’m still having problems :(. I’m running Windows 7 so when I try to run the win7-reg I receive the following message “Not all data was successfully written to the registry. Some keys are open by the system or other processes.” I have tried to go into regedit (which I can) and give me full permission to edit the registries but that didn’t work. Note that I also cannot use the internet and the same applies for safe mode as well. Thank you in advance