How to change your web browser in Windows 11 (Tip: It’s not easy)

If you are getting. Started with the latest install of Windows 11, you may notice a significant change: Setting up your default browser is now more complicated than with Windows 10. If you want to use something other than its relatively unpopular Edge browser.

In Windows 10, configuring a new default web browser was fairly easy. When you install a new browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox, the app will prompt you to set it as your default and open the Settings app where you can do so with a couple of clicks. You can also search for “Default Apps” in your settings, click “Web Browser” and select the browser you want.

Now, things are different. And depending on what type of Windows device you have, there may be additional barriers. Here are the steps to change your browser:

First, disable S mode (if it is enabled)

Some Windows devices are calling Microsoft S mode. This is a more lockdown version of Windows where you can only install apps through the Microsoft Store, not use command line tools, and Microsoft tools like Edge and Bing are not the only defaults, they are the only option.

Microsoft calls this mode safer and more stable than the alternative, and that’s technically true. Malware that you download from the Internet cannot run in this mode, for example. But it is very limited, and if you want to change your browser you have to turn it off. You can do this by going to the Microsoft Store and searching for “S Mode”, where you will see a listing that will take you through the process.

Annoyingly, you can’t turn on S mode again, so make sure you want to. S mode is ideal if you want to use your computer or tablet in an experience like lockdown, iPhone. But if you want to change your default browser or install a variety of software, you have to leave S mode for good.

Next, change the browser default for all file types.

Now it gets weird. In the past, there was an option to change the default web browser. But under the hood, it actually means opening a variety of files or links. If you’ve ever opened a PDF file in Edge instead of Chrome, for example, you’ve seen how the default browser tries to open the file.

Instead of making this behavior more consistent across all links and file types, Windows 11 simply asks the user to choose the default one for each. This process is very painful.

Photo: Eric Raven Craft.

To change the default, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app and go to it. Apps> Default apps. (If your browser prompts you to change your default settings, it may automatically direct you here.)
  2. Find the browser name you want to set as the default in the list of apps and select it.
  3. You’ll see a list of file or link types, including http, https, ftp, htm, html, shtml, pdf, and more.
  4. Click on any file or link type that you want to open with something other than Edge, select your new browser from the list that pops up, and click OK.
  5. If you are prompted to check the edge before switching, click “Switch Anyway”.

This process can be annoying and tiring, but once all your defaults are set on your new browser, you should not go back to it.


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