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New Windows 11 update restores one-click browser choice, mostly

Windows 11 browser choice SettingsImage: Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft has finally solved its browser choice problem within Windows 11…sort of.

As Neowin noted, the most recent optional update to Windows 11 (build 2000.593, or KB5011563) includes a long list of bug fixes—but one new feature that it hides is the ability to finally set your default browser in one click. If you navigate to Windows 11’s Settings menu and then Windows Update, you may see it as an optional update at the moment. (The update will likely be added as a standard Windows 11 update at some point in the near future.)

As we noted in our original Windows 11 review, the inability to easily switch between browsers was a major flaw of Windows 11. Our list of the best browsers for Windows 11 assumes that you’ll be able to easily switch back and forth, and for free. Before now, Windows 11 forced you to assign a default browser to each file type: an HTML file, PDF file, and so on.

Mark Hachman / IDG

Now, under KB5011563, you can navigate to the Settings menu, then Apps > Default apps and select an app like Google Chrome. You should see a “Make Google Chrome your default browser” button at the top. Clicking it will change the default app for HTTP, HTTPS, HTM and HTML files to Chrome…and that’s it.

So, yes, Microsoft isn’t entirely switching your default browser—or, if it is, it’s defining “browser” as “mainly accessing websites”. Edge will still be the default browser for PDF files, FTP transfers, SHTML, and XHTML files. It’s the first file category—PDF files—where you’ll probably want to switch the default browser to Chrome. But if you do, Microsoft will throw up one of its detested ads in its place.

Mark Hachman / IDG

Remember, we’re actually in favor of ads promoting new features within Windows. This ad stands in the way of a legitimate user choice, and there’s really no reason for it. Leaving the default PDF file handler unchanged implies that Microsoft hopes to elevate the number of Edge’s monthly users by occasionally launching Edge to serve PDF files.

Still, many of the changes Microsoft has made to Windows 11 have been in response to consumers loudly demanding the return of features that Microsoft eliminated from Windows 11. Browser choice is one of those must-have options.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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