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

If you get started on a fresh installation of Windows 11, you may notice a very significant change: your default browser configuration is now more complicated than it was in Windows 10. Microsoft is no stranger to browser controversies, and he has now placed some confusing obstacles in your way if you want to use anything other than his relatively unpopular Edge browser.

In Windows 10, setting a new default web browser was pretty straightforward. When you install a new browser, like Google Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox, the app prompts you to set it as default and open the Settings app where you can do it with a few clicks. You can also search in your settings for “Default applications”, click on “Web browser” and choose the browser of your choice.

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

First, turn off S mode (if enabled)

Some Windows devices come in something Microsoft calls S mode. This is a more locked down version of Windows where you can only install apps through the Microsoft Store, you can’t use line tools. command, and Microsoft tools like Edge and Bing aren’t just the default, they’re the only option.

Microsoft advertises this mode as being more secure and stable than the alternative, and that’s technically true. Malware that you download from the Internet cannot work in this mode, for example. But it is very limiting, and if you want to change your browser, you will have to deactivate it. You can do this by going to the Microsoft Store and searching for “Mode S,” where you’ll see a list that will walk you through the process.

Unfortunately, you can’t turn S mode back on, so make sure that’s what you want to do. S mode is ideal if you want to use your computer or tablet in an iPhone-like locked experience. But if you want to change your default browser or install many types of software, you will have to exit S mode for good.

Then change the browser default for all file types

Now it’s getting weird. Previously there was an option to change the default web browser. But under the hood, it actually refers to opening multiple types 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 can be different depending on what type of file you’re trying to open.

Rather than making this behavior more consistent across all types of links and files, Windows 11 simply asks the user to choose a default for each. This process is extremely tedious.

Photography: Eric Ravenscraft

To change the default, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app and navigate to Applications> Default applications. (If your browser prompts you to change your default setting, it may direct you here automatically.)
  2. Find the name of the browser you want to set as default in the list of applications and select it.
  3. You will see a list of file types or links including http, https, ftp, htm, html, shtml, pdf, etc.
  4. Click each type of file or link you want to open with something other than Edge, select your new browser from the list that appears, and click OK.
  5. If you receive a prompt asking you to check Edge before changing, click “Change Anyway.”

This process can be boring and tedious, but once all of your defaults are set on your new browser, you shouldn’t have to go back to it.


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