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How Do I Change My Default Web Browser in Windows 10?

One of the changes in Windows 10 as compared to previous versions of Windows is how to change default programs, including web browsers.

Changing the default web browser in Windows 10 is pretty simple; it’s just different than it once was.

I’ll explain the reasoning, but first I’ll show you how.

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Changing the default web browser

First, I’m going to assume that you already have the browser you want to use installed. If not, download and install it now. It may offer to set itself as the default, but there’s a good chance that won’t work.

Here’s what to do instead.

Run the Settings app (right-click on the Start button and then click the gear icon).

Click on Apps.

The Apps link in Windows 10 Settings
The Apps link in Windows 10 Settings.

Click on Default apps in the left-hand pane.

The link to change default apps in Windows 10
The link to change default apps in Windows 10.

Now scroll down until you find the entry “Web browser”. Below that heading will be the icon and name of the currently-selected default web browser. In the example below, Google Chrome is the currently configured default. Click on that.

The default web browser setting in Windows 10
The default web browser setting in Windows 10.

A list will pop up of the available candidates installed on your machine.

Choosing a new default web browser in Windows 10
Choosing a new default web browser in Windows 10.

In the example above, the list includes Edge, Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. Click on the one you want.

The newly selected default browser
The newly-selected default browser in Windows 10.

The default has been changed. Close the settings app.

The Edge take-over in Windows 10

I have to add one caveat.

Microsoft Edge is hard coded in some places in Windows. That means those places will completely ignore the default browser settings no matter what you do.

That list is constantly changing, though Cortana has been the most obvious. Fortunately, the list is getting shorter due to people’s negative reactions to this behavior.

I advise that you do nothing about it, as the issue is becoming rarer and rarer; even Cortana is becoming less intrusive.

If you can’t live with the behavior on your machine, there are apps that attempt to force use of the default browser over Edge. One such popular app is Edge Deflector, but as with all such random third-party solutions, use with caution and at your own risk.

What changed, and why

It used to be web browsers could set themselves as the default. Either when you installed the program initially, or each time it was run, the browser would check to see if it was the default, and offer to set itself as such if it wasn’t. Allowing it to do so was all you needed.

Then along came malware in the form of PUPs, browser hijacks, and more. If a browser could change the default on its own, then any program could also change it, whether you wanted it to or not.

Now, whenever any program attempts to change the default, it brings up the Settings app for you to do it manually. Or not.

This prevents unexpected and unwanted changes from happening behind your back.

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6 comments on “How Do I Change My Default Web Browser in Windows 10?”

  1. Yeah, well, I use “portable apps” when I can, and place them on the desktop.
    One is Thunderbird for E-mail.
    Another is Palemoon for my browser.
    I have not found a way to have/make the portable stuff work as a default in Windows 10.
    In Windows XP this was not a problem.
    Perhaps there is a way, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

    • This… from the Pale Moon developers:

      Pale Moon portable has been specifically designed to take with you on removable media with high wear and slow access, and its default settings reflect this. Using it on a stationary computer has a number of drawbacks and is not recommended.

      Because… when you install as an app on the machine many parts of the code are integrated into the operating system. As it is a portable app designed to use on multiple computers it doesn’t have that code built into it. Hence they recommend not using portable on a stationary computer.

      • Thank Paul,
        Recommended, yeah, well, I certainly look at all that . . .
        I Guess the point that I am/was making is that I could set the portable “apps” that I use as the “default” in Windows XP (which I still use), but not in Windows 10 (which I also use – after having castrated it).
        And the portability is kind of a nice/handy option, and easy to “back up” – just copy, and place it wherever you want.

      • I’m not much of a Registry guy but I’m sure there’s a registry setting that would do that. You can try Googling it. Always perform a system image backup before editing the registry in case you accidentally delete or changes something you shouldn’t.

  2. I have done as recommended above to change and keep my default browser as IE11. (I need this for compatibility with certain government web sites.)
    But every time I click on a link in mail, it asks me do I want to open it with IE even though I have answered “set as default” in the stupid little check box that apparently only remembers if you choose the “correct” browser, i.e. Edge .
    So I had to get in the habit of clicking the link and pressing entering. Aggravating. Is there a registry hack?


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