How to Change Your Web Browser to Windows 11 (Note: It’s Not Easy)

If you get starting a fresh installation of Windows 11, you may notice a significant change: Setting your default browser is more complicated than Windows 10. Microsoft is no stranger to browser controversies, and now put confusing obstacles in your path if you want to use anything other than this relatively unpopular Edge browser.

In Windows 10, setting up a new default web browser is simple enough. If 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 one click. You can also find in your Settings for “Default apps,” click “Web browser,” and select the browser you want.

Now, things are different. And depending on what different 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 send something called Microsoft S Mode. This is a more locked-down version of Windows where you can only install apps through the Microsoft Store, can’t use command line tools, and Microsoft tools like Edge and Bing aren’t the only ones. default, they are the only option.

Microsoft advertises this mode as more secure and robust than the option, and that’s technically true. Malware that you download from the internet cannot run in this mode, for example. Although it is very limited, and if you want to change your browser, you need to turn it off. You can do this by going to the Microsoft Store and searching for “S Mode,” where you’ll find a list that will guide you through the process.

Sadly, you can’t go back to S Mode, so make sure it’s what you want to do. S Mode is ideal if you want to use your computer or tablet in a lock-down, iPhone-like experience. But if you want to change your default browser or install many different software, you need to leave S Mode for good.

Next, Change the Browser Default for All File Types

Now it’s been weird. Previously, there was an option for changing the default web browser. But under the hood, that’s what it really means to open many different types of files or links. If you have a PDF file opened in Edge instead of Chrome, for example, you can see how the default browser varies depending on how different the file you’re trying to open.

Rather than making this behavior more common across all links and file types, Windows 11 simply asks the user to choose a default for each. This process is even more tiring.

Photo: Eric Ravenscraft

To change the default, follow these steps:

  1. Open the app settings and navigate to Apps> Default Applications. (If your browser prompts you to change your default setting, it can take you directly here.)
  2. Search for the name of the browser you want to set as your default in the list of apps and select it.
  3. You will find a list of files or link types including http, https, ftp, htm, html, shtml, pdf, and more.
  4. Click each file or link type you want to open in something other than Edge, select your new browser from the list that pops up, and click OK.
  5. If you get a prompt asking you to check the Edge before you move, click “Switch anyway.”

This process can be annoying and tedious, but if all of your defaults are set in your new browser, you won’t have to go back to it.

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