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Microsoft backtracks on lack of easy Windows browser choice

Optional update finally adds one-click default app selection to Windows 11

The latest set of optional cumulative updates for Windows 11 contains an unlisted addition that users have been clamoring for: a one-click default browser change. 

The update follows discovery of the addition in testing builds released in December, 2021, and indicates Microsoft has gone back on its idea that granular control is better

Microsoft doesn't have the most user-friendly history when it comes to its default application policies. Recent changes in Windows 11 made it impossible to open certain web address prefixes in any non-Edge browser, and another quick glance into Microsoft's past will remind anyone that default browser selection was one of the core components of the antitrust lawsuits it faced. 

Prior to this update, Windows 11 default applications required users to change every single file-type and protocol an app might use, which for browsers includes .HTM, .HTML, HTTP and HTTPS at the least. For less technical users, that could very well prohibit changing from Edge to a third-party browser.

This wasn't the case in Windows 10, which still had granular controls for file types but also included a default app chooser that took care of changing all relevant extensions with a single click. 

How to change your default browser in Windows 11

It bears repeating that this is part of an optional update for Windows 11 that includes a host of quality of life improvements and bug fixes. As it isn't a standard Windows update, it has to be installed manually.

To do so, open the Settings app, navigate to Update & Security, then to Windows Update. Once there, look for the Optional Updates area and select KB5011563 (OS Build 22000.593). 

The Windows 11 Start menu

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Once the update is installed, you'll find the default browser switch an easy one to make. Again in the Windows 11 Settings app, search for the Default Apps section. Look for the browser (or other app) of your choice and select it. On the app's screen you'll see a list of all the file extensions it can use, and a "Make X your default browser" button. Click that and you're on your way to a relatively Edge-free browsing experience.  

This build is available in the Windows Update and Microsoft Update channels, and can be installed with a standalone package downloadable from the Microsoft Update Catalog. Windows Update for Business will not get this cumulative update, which will be included in the next security update to that channel, and Windows Server Update Services users can import the update manually from the Update Catalog. ®

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