How to Permanently Set Your Default Browser?

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Web browser iconsWhy do operating systems (O/S)’s such as Microsoft Windows have to make it such a pain to successfully be able to set your default browser of choice? Well, it’s actually easier today than it used to be. Back in the 90’s when Netscape ruled the browser world, Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer (IE) with its Windows O/S (which ruled, and still does rule, the O/S world), thereby forcing people to switch to IE for web browsing. But what if you didn’t want to use IE?

The Bundling of Windows and IE

In the face of antitrust litigation, that’s all changed. It’s up to the consumer now to choose the browser they’d like to use. While IE still comes bundled with Windows, today’s O/S’s actually give you a choice as to which browser you’d like to use. However, setting the default browser won’t by itself make the other browsers go away. They may still pop up from time to time when you open a link within an email, or click on a desktop icon, etc. We’re going to show you how to permanently set your web browser of choice to be your default browser in all situations.

The method you use to set your default browser is going to depend on your operating system (ie. Windows, Mac, Linux) as well as your web browser of choice (ie. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). We’ll go over as many configurations as possible. If you don’t see yours here, please comment below and we’ll add it.

Setting Internet Explorer (IE) As Your Default Browser

There are several ways to set your default browser as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE). Note that to run IE, you’ll need a Windows operating system installed. Here’s how to set Internet Explorer 8 and higher as your default browser. If you’re running Internet Explorer 7 or below, we recommend you upgrade. You always want to be running the latest version of a particular web browser, for both security, stability, and performance purposes.

  • Open IE and browse to Tools (upper right corner) > Internet Options (last option) > Programs tab (second from last). The first item you’ll see is “Default web browser.” You’ll either see:
    • “Internet Explorer is currently the default web browser.” – in which case you don’t need to do anything. If links still aren’t opening in IE despite this setting, see our troubleshooting section below.
    • “Internet Explorer is not currently the default browser.” – Click the “Make default” button to set IE as your default web browser. Additionally, you can check the “Tell me if Internet Explorer is not the default web browser.” check box to be notified if this setting is ever overridden by another browser.

Setting Firefox (Mozilla) as Your Default Browser

The second most popular browser on the market today is Mozilla’s Firefox browser. You can set Firefox 3.5 and higher as your default browser (if you have a lower version, please upgrade) as follows:

  • Open Firefox and browse to Tools > Options > Advanced. On the “General” tab, towards the bottom, you’ll see a “System Defaults” setting that reads “Always check to see if Firefox is the default browser on startup.” Make sure this box is checked, and then click on the “Check Now” button to immediately set Firefox as your default browser.
  • Voila – links should now be opening up in Firefox by default. If they’re not, see our troubleshooting section and/or comment below for help.

Setting Opera as Your Default Browser

One of our favorite browsers, but unfortunately also one that is currently one of the least popular desktop web browsers by market share, is Opera. Opera used to be a browser you had to purchase to use, but since that business model didn’t go over to well, Opera is now available to all for free. Unlike Firefox, however, Opera source code is closed – which means not everyone can work on it. While Opera has a dedicated team updating the Opera browser core, it’s possible for third parties and fans to create plug-ins (extensions) for Opera.

We should point out that Opera continues to live strongly, however, having the largest browse share in the mobile web browser market. In particular, if you’re running a smartphone running Windows Mobile, you’ll want to look into downloading Opera Mobile or Opera Mini, as these browsers far exceed the potential of Internet Explorer mobile, in our opinion. If you’re on an iPhone, you’re already using a solid browser – a mobile version of Safari, the popular Apple Mac desktop browser.

Tangent stories aside, here’s how to set Opera 10 and higher (upgrade if you’re using a lower version) as your default browser:

  • Open Opera and browse to the Red “Opera” symbol at upper left. Click on it, followed by Settings > Preferences > Advanced tab -> Programs. Here in the middle you’ll see a check box next to “Check if Opera is default browser on startup.” Check this box, then click on “Details…” to be taken to Windows “Program Associations” for Opera. From here, you can set Opera to be the default for all kinds of applications and protocols, including image files, URLs, send mail commands, and more. You may want to leave some of the settings – such as those for image files, alone, especially if you already use an image editor (such as Google’s Picasa) to work with your image files.

Setting Google’s Chrome as Your Default Browser

Google entered the browser wars in the last couple months, and has been making some headway. Chrome is a fast, clean and simple browser that works well. The only thing we don’t like is the lack of customization options. In particular, we like to set the option to have our browser ask us if we’d like to set cookies for each site. Chrome doesn’t let you fine-tune this option to the extent we’d like.

That being said, Google is a power house, and Chrome is holding its own, albeit small but steadily growing piece of the browser market share pie. Here’s how to set Chrome as your default Internet browser:

  • Browse to the Tools menu -> and select Options. Select the “Basics” tab, and in the “Default browser” section, click the button labeled “Make Google Chrome my default browser.” Click “close” to save your changes.

Setting Apple’s Safari as Your Default Browser

Apple has made a comeback in the PC market over the past decade, and has enjoyed huge success with its iTunes music player and its iPhone mobile phone lines. Apple is very protective of its technologies and therefore develops everything in a closed-source environment (similar to Microsoft), although they do allow developers to develop approved applications for their hardware.

Apple’s Safari browser has been the standard on its desktop for the Mac OS X line of operating systems, and is also the browser installed by default on iPhones. Recently, Apple has made the Safari browsers available to Windows users as well, no doubt wanting to get some action in that corner of the market.

To set Safari as your default browser, simply take the following steps:

  • If you’re running Safari on a Mac, open the Apple pull-down menu and choose “System Preferences.” Next, in the “Internet and Network” section, click on “Internet.” Under the “Web” heading, select Safari. Close the “System Preferences” window and reboot your Mac to have the changes take effect.
  • If you’re running Safari on a Windows PC, you can adjust the setting to make Safari your default browser within the Safari web browser. To do so, open Safari, open the Safari pull-down menu > choose Preferences > “General” tab > next to “Default web browser” choose Safari from the available options. Close the “Safari preferences” window and restart Safari.
About The Author:

Alex has been involved on the business side of the internet since the early 2000's. He holds both a Management Science degree from the University of California at San Diego as well as a Computer Science degree from NJIT.

We Rock Your Web had its roots back in 2004 as the tech blog for a web design and development company Alex founded that has grown and evolved into the parent company of We Rock Your Web.

While his foundation is rooted in web development, his expertise today lies in content and digital marketing, SEO, organic and paid search, analytics, and publishing. Alex is an avid tennis player, nature enthusiast, and hiker, and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, and dogs.

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Apple has made the Safari browsers available to Windows users as well, no doubt wanting to get some action in that corner of the market.

So, frustratingly though, even though IE is set as my default, when I click on a link to go to gmail for example, it opens up a chrome window which makes me crazy. How do I stop THAT?

Follow this step you can easily solve a problem.
Browse to the Tools menu -> and select Options. Select the Basics tab, and in the Default browser section, click the button labelled Make Google Chrome my default browser. Click close to save your changes.

Alex, this does not mean that sites can’t change your default. With, my default browser was changed to them somehow without my changing it.

Hi John,

Not sure I understand – appears to be a website, the “archaeological atlas of classical antiquity”, not a browser? Also, your O/S by default should have permissions in place that should cause apps to ask for browser changes before making them. This was based on a controversial Microsoft event from back in the day when they bundled Internet Explorer with Windows and forced it through as the default.

For years now I’ve had FireFox set as my default browser. I’ve specifically had Internet Explorer not as my default.
Still, when I click on http or https links Internet Explorer still opens. Ugh. Does this have to be that hard to do?

Hi there, I can totally relate to your frustration! Browsers typically “default” themselves not just in the browser itself, but in your applications, such as email. Depending on where you’re clicking on the links (for example, within Outlook), you’ll need to go into the settings for that application and also set the default browser there. If you give me more details (PC or Mac, name of application) I can give you more specific instructions.

I have the same issue and would love to be able to fix it. I see that even Firefox though is my default browser, IE retains some unpickable defaults. I’m thinking that’s why an AutoCAD error report comes up in IE. I’m a Dell Inspiron 5000 series laptop, with a windows 10 (the problem side) and Linux Mint dual boot. My fingers are crossed!

I recently switched my default browser on iOS 10.10.2 from Chrome to Safari, but I want to continue using Gmail instead of Mail. I have the Apple extension for Gmail, but external email links and Share all open Chrome, which is annoying. Settings shows no clear path to change this. Ideas?

Simple explanation, but no tools menu in Chrome. The “Make Chrome My Default Browser” has NO button to do so.

The tools menu is on the right side of Chrome. Straight across from the URL it has three horizontal bars.

Thanks. On my Chrome, that is not called Tools. But even so, under it there is Settings, under that is the place where it says Default Browser. Usually, that is where there is a button that says “Make Google Chrome My Default Browser.” But on this computer, there is NO such button. It says “Google Chrome is not currently your default browser.” But does not allow for change. I finally changed it in Windows program defaults, but could not change it in Chrome.

I was seriously searching on the net on how to make the operating system such as IE, opera as our default browsing system and finally I do find it in your blog. Your language is very simple and easy to digest.

Our goal is to explain things in a very simple language for our readers to understand. I’m glad we were able to help you Annie. Thank you for reading and commenting!


Reading the Opera section as your default browser, I have used Opera almost since it’s inception. I have also used it with a purchased Outlook Express and previous free similar versions for ages with no problem until a month or so ago.

My little red O in the upper left gives me “Restore Move Size Min Max” and “Close” but Tools Preference seems to get me where you want me to be, it just isn’t called “Program Associations”, it has no name.

Are you suggesting I “Select All” and then remove the image files that were added? Please clarify.

Everything seemed to be set appropriately, someone suggested http and https, but they were already checked. I still get a “General Failure – Access Denied” from Outlook Express when I use an e-mail shortcut that should open a sight on Opera, which is my default browser, and has worked consistently before.

I don’t see

Does anyone know which browsers are available in 64-bit versions? Firefox seems to be officially stating that they won’t ever release a 64-bit version, and when I run Task Manager in Windows I see that IE is running at 32-bits. But from what I know, I think Apple’s Safari is native 64-bit? Why would we have 64-bit processors on the market for so long now, and one of the most utilized applications (web browser) is not fully supported to take advantage of the higher processing power?

From what we hear, 64-bit browsers are on the way. With version 8, Firefox will supposedly support 64-bit (there are beta and un-official versions of 64-bit Firefox available now, including Java and Flash plugins).

From what we know, only Firefox on Linux machines and like you said, Safari, are the true, officially-supported 64-bit browsers on the market today. We’re just as puzzled as you are…

I can NOT select Safari 5 as the default browser with Windows XP SP3. I’ve tried and tried. I should add that I have a Logitech MK300 keyboard, and I’ve tried to program it to open sites with Safari 5. That is, program F keys to open certain sites. I can program the F keys fine, but it always opens the sites in IE 8.

I used to use Chrome as my default browser, but while back I decided to make Opera my default browser. I don’t known the different settings of these browsers, and I searched dozens of sites until I found yours with this valuable information. Wow! It’s worked out, I’m already defaulted to my new browser. Thanks a lot, I received every browser setting info at the same time.

Thanks, this helps. It seems that in Windows 7 it’s finally somewhat easier to set your default browser, without having Microsoft reset it every few seconds.

I can’t believe how much of a pain in the behind Internet Explorer has been over the past few years. It seems that only with their latest iteration – IE 8, are they finally catching up with the game.

Too little, too late though – doesn’t Firefox have almost a third of the market share now? Nice on Mozilla – they were (as Netscape) the browser pioneer to begin with, weren’t they.

Wow, the browser wars have really picked up. I used to use Firefox as my default browser, but I’m really starting to like Opera. I definitely use Opera Mobile as the default choice on my mobile phone, because that’s pretty much the only viable browser available on the crappy old Windows Mobile I’m running.