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Microsoft is making it even harder to avoid the Edge browser in Windows 11

the Microsoft Edge logo
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft really wants you to use Edge, and is apparently resorting to somewhat underhand tactics to try and get you to switch/stay. 

Daniel Aleksandersen has written that his EdgeDeflector app has stopped working between Windows 11 preview builds 22483 and 22494, after Microsoft quietly removed the ability to redirect microsoft-edge:// links to http:// that can be easily opened by any browser. 

That means that it’s no longer possible for users to work around Microsoft’s irritating insistence that Edge is used when clicking on a News and Interest item, a weather widget link or search results from the start menu in Windows 11. Even if you have Chrome or Firefox set as your default browser, Microsoft will override this and use Edge to open these pages instead. And every time it does, it’ll take the opportunity to ask if you want to make Edge the default browser. 

“You can no longer set anything but Microsoft Edge as the protocol handler for the microsoft-edge:// protocol,” writes Aleksandersen. “Or rather, you can choose between Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Edge (Insider Beta), and Microsoft Edge (Insider Dev). No third-party apps are allowed to handle the protocol.”

This, he continues, can’t be worked around via registry changes, OEM partner customizations, modifications to the Edge package, meddling with OpenWith.exe or “any other hacking workarounds." Apparently, Microsoft really has closed every loophole imaginable.

Even if you completely remove all traces of Microsoft Edge from your computer, Windows 11 won’t relent. It’ll just throw up an error message instead of offering the option of using any other browser.

For Aleksandersen, the timing appears suspicious, as both Brave and Firefox had indicated they’d be introducing similar functionality. While the half-million EdgeDeflector users could be comfortably ignored, hundreds of millions of Firefoxers probably could not be, he speculates.

While Aleksandersen concedes that there are still ways he could make EdgeDeflector meet its original remit, he doesn’t intend to work on it any further. 

“There are still ways I can work around the limitation, but every method left in my toolbox will require making destructive changes to Windows,” he explained. “Changes that can cause issues for the user down the line, and issues that I frankly don’t want to support. They’d also require a heck of a lot more work than EdgeDeflector’s ≈100 lines of code.”

Instead, he recommends that anybody annoyed at the development should switch to Linux and/or complains to their antitrust regulator. “Your web browser is probably the most important — if not the only — app you regularly use,” he concluded. “Microsoft has made it clear that its priorities for Windows don’t align with its users’.”

If you're new to Windows 11, here's how to change the default browser in Windows 11 so you can get a head start on moving away from Edge. Also, after much outcry, Microsoft has pulled back some, making it easier to ditch Edge.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.