Fix “These files can’t be opened” Windows Security Error on Windows 11, 10

Have you ever attempted to open a file on your Windows computer only to receive an error message that says “These files can’t be opened“? This problem generally occurs with .exe files, but some users have reported encountering it with other file types as well. This issue is most frequently seen on Windows 8 and 10, but it can still appear on a Windows 11 computer.

The complete error message reads as follows:

These files can’t be opened.

Your Internet security settings prevented one or more files from being opened.

Fortunately, fixing this error should not take you more than a few minutes. However, identifying the root cause of the problem may take a bit longer so that you can apply the appropriate fix. There could be several reasons behind the error, ranging from Internet Properties to Internet Explorer settings.

Fix “These files can’t be opened” Error

Regardless of the cause, you can solve the problem with one of the following fixes, allowing you to access those files again without feeling frustrated.

1. Check if the File is Blocked

At times, when you download an executable file from the internet or transfer files between PCs, Windows may choose to block the file to protect your system. When this happens, you’ll receive the “These files can’t be opened” error message, but unblocking the file is all you need to do. To unblock the file,

1. Right-click on the file and go to Properties.

2. In the properties window, switch to the General tab.

3. Here, checkmark the Unblock option associated with the Security section.

4. Finally, click on OK.

2. Change Your Internet Properties

Windows checks your Internet Properties to determine whether a file is safe to run on your PC. If your Internet Properties identify a file as unsafe, you’ll receive the “These files can’t be opened” error message. To change this behavior, you’ll need to modify your Internet Properties.

Be aware that this will require you to make your security settings less stringent from the Internet Properties. While this may fix the error, it will also make your system vulnerable to security threats if you’re not careful about the files you download.

To change your Internet Properties:

1. Press Win + R, type inetcpl.cpl, and press Enter.

2. Switch to the Security tab in the Internet Properties window and click on the Custom level button.

3. Make sure that the radio button for Prompt (recommended) is selected for the Launching applications and unsafe files option.

This option is typically selected by default, but if you’ve modified your internet properties in the past, you may have inadvertently changed it to Disable.

3. Edit Windows Registry Values

If the previous fixes did not work for you, you can also try allowing unsafe files by editing the Windows registry. You’ll need to add a new registry entry using the Command Prompt.

1. Start by launching the elevated Command Prompt. Simply search for it and click on run as administrator.

run cmd as administrator
run cmd as administrator

2. Execute the following commands one by 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. This will add two new registry keys. Once you’re done, restart your PC and try opening the files.

4. Reset Internet Explorer

Resetting Internet Explorer’s settings to default could be helpful if you use the browser. To do so:

1. Click on the ellipsis icon at the top-right of the browser and click on Internet Options.

2. Switch to the Advanced tab and click on the Reset button.

3. When prompted, confirm the reset and then reboot your PC.

5. Import Internet Settings Key from a New Admin Account

Sometimes the “These files can’t be opened” error is caused by registry key corruption in Internet Settings. If that’s the case, you can create a new admin account, export the internet settings key, and then import it back into your regular account.

Here are the steps to import the Internet Settings key from a new admin account:

1. Press the Windows key + R to open the Run dialog box. Type “netplwiz” and press 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 prompts to create a new user account.

4. Go back to the User Accounts window, select the newly created account, and click the Properties button.

5. In the Properties window of the new user account, go to Group Membership and move it to the Administrators group. Click Apply to save the changes.

6. Press the Windows key + R again to open the Run dialog box. Type “regedit” and press Enter to open the Registry Editor.

7. In the Registry Editor, navigate to this key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings

8. Right-click on “Internet Settings” and choose “Export.”

9. Save the .reg file of Internet Settings to an easily accessible location.

10. Close the Registry Editor, log out from the new user account, and log in to your old one (the one with the “These files can’t be opened” error).

11. Press the Windows key + R again to open the Run dialog box. Type “regedit” and press Enter to open the Registry Editor. Then, navigate to the same Internet Settings key as before and delete it by right-clicking and choosing “Delete.”

12. Once the Internet Settings key is deleted, locate the exported key file from the old account and double-click on it. Confirm the UAC prompt and the import process.

13. After the imported key is run, close the Registry Editor and reboot your PC. Check if you can now open the files without any error.

If you still can’t run the files you want, perhaps it’s time for a last resort.

6. Revert Your PC to a Previous Restore Point

If you used to be able to open a file without any issue, but now you get an error message after changing some settings, you can try restoring your system to a previous state when everything was working fine.

To do this, you need to make sure that your PC has a system restore point.

1. Press the Win + R keys, type “rstrui,” and hit Enter to launch the System Restore window.

2. If you have a restore point, you should see it under the Recommended restore option.

select restore point and click on can for affected programs
select restore point and click on can for affected programs

If there is no restore point available, you’ll see a message saying “No restore points have been created on your computer’s system drive.” In this case, you cannot use this method to fix the problem.

3. Assuming you have a restore point, select the recommended option or choose a different one based on the time when the problem started, then click Next. Follow the prompts to complete the restoration process.

After the system reboots, you should be able to open the files you want.

For a more detailed tutorial, you can read our Windows System Restore Guide.

Hopefully, one of the above solutions has resolved the “These files can’t be opened” error for you. If not, you can try resetting your PC, which will restore all Windows settings to their default values. Keep in mind that some of your files may be lost in the process, so it’s important to back them up.

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Posted by
Bhanu Pratap

Hi! I am Bhanu Pratap, co-founder of Yorker Media Group. A die-heart fan of tech and keeps track of every little happening of the same. When not writing, I usually keep myself busy on YouTube making and exploring new and awesome tech content.

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