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Can I Use More than One Browser?

Question: Hi, Leo. I’m thinking about installing Google Chrome. I currently use IE8. Will Chrome just install over it and then become the default browser leaving IE as a used program in the background?

Let’s begin by clearing up a few misconceptions here.

First, you can have more than one browser on your machine. Many people do. I do.

Once you install Google Chrome, you still have Internet Explorer available to you. The icon should still be in your Programs menu and when you click it, Internet Explorer 8 opens. And you can then click the Google icon to use Google Chrome. Installing one browser does not automatically replace any browsers already installed. They are completely separate programs that can actually live together in something approaching harmony.

However, when you download an additional browser you do have the option of making it the default browser. And much like Highlander, there can be only one.

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What’s a default browser?

Let’s say you have a web page saved on your desktop and you double click it to open it. Your system selects a browser (usually Internet Explorer if you’re on Windows) and displays the saved web page in that browser. Whichever browser it selects to do that is the default browser – the browser that Windows uses when for some reason it needs a browser.

You can have as many browsers as you like installed on your system, but only one of them can be the default. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the others, it just means you need to explicitly run those browsers in order to.

For the record, I usually have three or four browsers on my machines. Some have Chrome set as the default, but some use Firefox. I still use Internet Explorer from time to time, and of course my Macs include Safari.

Internet BrowsersWhy have multiple browsers?

People may have multiple browsers for many reasons. I find it very handy because I’m dealing with websites and their design. I’m testing things in different browsers throughout the day and sometimes, it’s easiest to fire up two different browsers side by side and compare how a site looks in one browser over another. Sometimes, I need to check, “Okay, what’s the website going to look like in Internet Explorer? Why doesn’t it work in Chrome? Why is Firefox showing a little bit differently?”

While web developers know that there are multiple browser platforms out there, some sites are still designed to be platform specific. For instance, you may visit a site where you can use the tools or functionality on Internet Explorer only.

Another good example is what I’ll call “login state”. I’m logged into the Ask Leo! website as the administrator, so I can make changes to it and do all sorts of wonderful things to the site. But the site actually behaves just a little bit differently when someone isn’t logged in. As a result it’s sometimes very handy to open a different browser and visit the same site only not logged in. When I do this with Ask Leo!, I can see how the site actually behaves for the average visitor, which is of course very important to me.

Why have one default browser?

No matter how many browsers you have, you must choose one to be the default. The browser that you choose depends on your personal preferences. Some people feel strongly about Internet Explorer while others like Chrome more. Usually, the browser installation program asks you this at setup time. Most browsers also have the ability to check to see if they are still the default browser, and offer to reset it in case some other program made a change you didn’t want.

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34 comments on “Can I Use More than One Browser?”

  1. When my two Windows computers boot up, three browsers are available but none is the default.Does that cause any problem of which I’ve been ignorant?

    • I’m sure one of them is the default. If you have the Start->Run box (or just type Windows Key + R), type in and press enter – see what happens. Whatever browser comes up, that’s your default browser.

    • Yep, Opera’s a fine browser. It’s market share is so small, though, that many sites – myself included I’m afraid – don’t invest the additional time it would take to test with it. There are quite literally dozens of potential browsers out there, and only so much time :-).

  2. I have two browsers: Explorer and recently installed Firefox. For Anti-virus I have had Microsoft Security Essentials. Does MSE protects my computer (Explorer and Firefox accesses) or Explorer
    accesses only? Thanks

    • MSE is a complete antimalware program. It should block malware from all browsers, email programs and removable media. Of course, no AV program is perfect, and in addition to running an antimalware program, the best antimalware protection is common sense and being careful while surfing.

    • That changes over time and based on personal opinion and use. IE, FireFox, Chrome, Opera – they’re all good. Various people will tell you that each is blazingly fast, and others will tell you that each is incredibly slow. My advice: try ’em.

  3. I have windows IE8 desktop, I mainly just play games on facebook, bingo mostly. Wingo bingo started being in slow motion, and I sent a message to the wingo bingo team and they suggested I play the game using another browser, such as firefox. I don’t have any other browsers, if I install firefox or Chrome, how will I use that browser to play the game instead of windows

    • Just open the browser and go to the game website and log in. Unless I’m missing something, it’s as simple as that.

  4. I have always used IE and currently use IE11. However, recently I having trouble loading web pages, specifically Pinterest, but also shopping sites. Is my answer to install another browser?

  5. Yeah, I’ve cleared my browser cache. I’ve viewed all my add-ons but I wouldn’t even know where to start. Some are self-explanatory and some I have NO IDEA! What if I disable something important!

  6. I currently use chrome as my default browser and for the most part, it is great. however, a few times i have been trying to sign up for things and it wont work, and i found out that not all websites are compatible with chrome and they tell me i should try another browser, i read your article that says i can have more than one browser, so can i just keep one browser for those certain pages?? because apparently chrome isnt Java compatible either, and their are certain coupon sites i cant use because of chrome.

  7. Hope it is okay to add to a discussion started so long back. I made Chrome my default but discovered some sites that work only on IE so was glad I saw the program still listed and thought I would use BOTH browsers. However, I have run into problems because (I discovered on a site related to Webex use) IE is operating on/within a Chrome frame. It’s like Chrome is not going to let go, once I made it the default browser.

    How do I use both browsers in their “pure” state – without that hidden frame thing happening?


  8. I need help I have installed two firefox browsers I wanted them to work independently but they don’t. when I add or delete on one it does the same on the other. I unsynced in the options and even tried to change the firefox account name on one but it appeared the same on other one. I want one of them to be clean and the other one to have all my add ons and bookmarks. thank you.

    • You normally can’t make that happen. Maybe you’ll find some plugin which can make that happen. I get around that by using Firefox and Chrome if I want to have 2 separate logins to the same website, for example. If you need more, there’s Opera, IE, Safari. And then there’s also the Pale Moon browser which is a fork off of Firefox. That might work well in your situation as it is still compatible with lots of Firefox add-ins.

    • Not possible. You can have only one copy of a specific browser installed in yoru system at a time. If you really need to you could set up an entire virtual machine to host another copy, but that’s way overkill. I’d recommend just using a different browser. I have Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera all installed and available, for example.

  9. Chrome is my default browser. I just installed Firefox . Used it once. Closed it. Now there’s no icon for it or listing in my Programs to open again. How do I open?

    • Click on the Windows Start icon, start typing: firefox, and click on Firefox when it comes up on the search. You can open any installed program similarly.Reinstalling Firefox might not even work as reinstalling usually maintains the latest settings.

  10. Hi Leo. Please excuse me for being somewhat computer illiterate. I have on my iPhone 5se both Google and Google Chrome. Do I need both of these, or does one do the same thing as the other? Which one would be preferable if I only need one of them? I ask because I assumed that I probably only need one of them, so I kept the chrome and deleted the regular google app. Now I am trying to re-install the Google app again, and it will not install for some reason, it keeps posting an error there so I don’t know what’s going on with that. Any recommendations? Thanks very much.

  11. I want to go back on the site and they have blocked me because I have too many engines that I have used in the past through this site so this site has blocked me and I can never have it back again how do I fix from not doing that again

  12. In spite of the fact that many websites don’t optimize for Opera, I haven’t had any websites yet which don’t work well on Opera. Ask Leo works fine on Opera and I can even do my Ask Leo! moderation in Opera. Opera has some nice features and seems to be a bit faster than other browsers. I alternate constantly between 3 browsers.


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