How to Change the Default Browser in Windows 11, Even for Widgets and Search

How to Switch the Windows 11 Default Browser
(Image credit: Future)

Microsoft really wants you to use its Edge Browser so much so that it's made changing the default browser in Windows 11 a little more difficult than in Windows 10. Instead of allowing you to simply change something called the "default browser" in the Settings menu, you now have to tweak file associations for particular link types   such as .html files, .htm files, http and https.

In addition, we found that Chrome browser was unable to change these settings for you when we clicked the button to make it our default browser, instead dropping us into the appropriate menu to do it on our own. Though strangely Firefox could perform the same task by itself.  Perhaps worst of all, though, is that even if you change the settings correctly, Microsoft will still open Edge browser if you click links that appear in Windows 11's Search function or its Widgets box. 

Fortunately, it's easy to change your default browser in Windows 11 if you just follow these simple steps.

Changing the Windows 11 Default Browser in Settings

To be fair to Microsoft, a lot of the criticism it has taken over the default browser situation in Windows 11 is due to the fact that it simply doesn't call the settings you need to change "default browser" like it does in Windows 10. Instead, it hides the settings you need under the name of the app you want to be the default (ex: Chrome, Firefox), and a couple of different file associations

Windows 10 Left vs Windows 11 Right Default apps settings for browsers. (Image credit: Future)

To change your default browser settings in Windows 11:

1. Navigate to the Default apps settings menu. The fastest way to get there is by using Windows search to search for "Default apps" and clicking the top result. Or you can click through to Settings->Apps->Default apps.

Search for default apps

(Image credit: Future)

2. Scroll down and select the browser you want to be the new default (ex: Google Chrome). 

Click on the name of the browser you want to be the default

(Image credit: Future)

3. Scroll down to HTTPS and click the name of the current default browser (ex: Edge). A pop-up menu will appear.

Click the name under HTTPS

(Image credit: Future)

4. Select the new browser you want to be the default and click OK.

The select the browser you want.

(Image credit: Future)

You will notice that the defaults have now changed for both HTTP and HTTPS. It seems that these are linked together. If, for some reason, this doesn't happen for you, repeat this action for HTTP as well.

Both HTTP and HTTPS change together

(Image credit: Future)

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for .htm and .html. At this point, you could stop and your default browser would be changed for all Web URLS you click on and even for local HTML files on your hard drive / SSD, which for most people is what matters. However, you can also set your preferred browser to open PDFS or more obscure formats such as XHTML and SHTML.

Setting the Default Browser for Search and News

Sadly, like Windows 10 before it, Windows 11 does not honor your default browser choice when you click on any web links that appear in Windows Search or in the news widgets. No matter what you have chosen in the Settings->Default Apps menu, it will still open these links in Microsoft Edge. 

However, there's a freeware app called EdgeDeflector that fools Windows 11 (or 10) into redirecting these links to your default browser. Here's how to set it up.

1. Download and install EdgeDeflector. Note that, if you attempt to download this program in Edge browser, the browser will attempt to block it, claiming it is unsafe (thanks Microsoft; we're sure your motives are pure here) and you can click "keep" to make it download, but you're better off downloading in another browser anyway.

No matter how you download EdgeDeflector, Windows 11 will likely give you a warning message when you launch the installer. You will probably be confronted with a SmartScreen error saying that "Windows protected your PC" from this app (the color may be red). If so, click on the "More info" link.

Click More info

(Image credit: Future)

And then click Run anyway. 

Click Run anyway

(Image credit: Future)

You can then finish the install.

2.  Navigate to the Default Apps menu.

3. Select EdgeDeflector.

Select EdgeDeflector

(Image credit: Future)

4. Click Microsoft Edge under the "Micosoft-Edge" subheader.

Click Microsoft Edge

(Image credit: Future)

5. Click "Switch anyway" if prompted.

Click Switch anyway if prompted

(Image credit: Future)

6. Select EdgeDeflector and click Ok on the pop-up menu.

Select EdgeDeflector and click Ok

(Image credit: Future)

This should now allow links you click from Widgets or Windows Search to open in your default browser. 

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.