How to change your web browser in Windows 11 (Tip: Not easy)

If you receive started with a new installation of Windows 11, you may notice a very important change: Setting up the default browser is now more complicated than in Windows 10. Microsoft is no stranger to the inconsistencies of the browser and now put confusing obstacles in your way if you want to use something different from the relatively unpopular Edge browser.

In Windows 10, setting up a new web browser by default was simple enough. When you install a new browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox, the app will prompt you to set it as default and open the Settings app, where you can do so with a few clicks. You can also search your default “Settings” settings, click “Web Browser,” and select the browser you want.

Now things are different. 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 enabled)

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

Microsoft advertises this mode as more secure and stable than the alternative, and this is technically true. For example, malware that you download from the Internet cannot work in this mode. But this is very limiting and if you want to change your browser, you will have to turn it off. You can do this by going to the Microsoft Store and looking for “S Mode”, where you will see a list that will guide you through the process.

It’s annoying that you can’t turn on S Mode again, so make sure that’s what you want to do. S mode is ideal if you want to use your computer or tablet in a locked, iPhone-like experience. But if you want to change your default browser or install many types of software, you will have to leave S Mode forever.

Then change the default browser for all file types

It’s getting weird now. In the past, there was an option to change the default web browser. But under the hood, this actually refers to opening several 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 the type of file you’re trying to open.

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

Photo: Eric Ravencraft

To change the default setting, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app and go to Applications> Default applications. (If your browser prompts you to change the default setting, it can automatically point you here.)
  2. Search for the name of the browser you want to set by 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, and more.
  4. Click each file or connection type that you want to open with something other than Edge, select your new browser from the pop-up list, and click OK.
  5. If you are prompted to check the Edge before switching, click “Switch anyway.”

This process can be tedious and tedious, but once all the default settings are set to your new browser, you don’t have to go back to it.

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