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Windows 11 will open some links in Edge whether you like it or not

Microsoft Edge Update Dev New
Microsoft Edge Update Dev New (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • A recent update to Windows 10 and Windows 11 blocks apps such as EdgeDeflector from redirecting links to people's default browser.
  • These types of apps intercept protocol links from certain elements of Windows, such as the weather widget.
  • Microsoft prefers to ensure "certain end-to-end customer experiences," which involves blocking protocol redirectors.

A recent update to Windows 10 and Windows 11 blocks protocol redirecting apps such as EdgeDeflector. These types of apps force Windows 10 to open people's web browser of choice, even when clicking links from Search in the Taskbar and other elements of the operating system. Though not specifically noted in the changelog, the change appears to arrive with the KB5008212 (opens in new tab) and KB5008215 (opens in new tab) updates (via Neowin).

Microsoft started testing this change with Insiders in November 2021.

"This update contains miscellaneous security improvements to internal OS functionality. No additional issues were documented for this release," says Microsoft's support document for the KB5008215 update. This could reference the change to how Windows reacts to protocol redirecting apps.

Apps like EdgeDeflector work by intercepting protocol links. These types of links are within elements of Windows, such as Search in the Taskbar. Windows opens these links in Edge even if a different browser is set as default.

Microsoft's decision to block apps like EdgeDeflector is made in the name of security and a good user experience, according to the company.

"Windows openly enables applications and services on its platform, including various web browsers," said Microsoft to The Verge in November 2021. "At the same time, Windows also offers certain end-to-end customer experiences in both Windows 10 and Windows 11, the search experience from the Taskbar is one such example of an end-to-end experience that is not designed to be redirected. When we become aware of improper redirection, we issue a fix."

The argument is that experiences baked into Windows 10 and Windows 11 should be guaranteed to be secure and to work the way Microsoft intends them to. For example, clicking on the weather widget should open Edge with more information.

This setup also prevents protocol hijacking. While the developers of EdgeDeflector appear to have good intentions, nefarious app makers could intercept protocol links and redirect them to malicious pieces of software or websites. Microsoft bypasses this risk by keeping PC users within a designated path.

Microsoft could also cut the risk of protocol hijacking by not implementing protocol links that redirect people to Edge regardless of default browser settings. This would also allow people to choose their own browsing experience.

Even with the changes Microsoft has made, there are apps that can redirect protocol links to your browser of choice. We need to test these further before we can recommend them.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

24 Comments
  • After all the sabotage Google has done in the past to old Edge and IE with the Google services, blocking on Windows phone etc. I'm honestly not surprised we've gotten to this stage now. I realise most people, are using the Chrome browser and are happy with it, but Google does not like Windows. It would not surprise me given the opportunity for Google to ignore or make magically not work properly, if it knew the links were being opened directly in Chrome from the OS, just so they could make Microsoft's Windows look worse than it is, just for the agender of pushing Linux on to people. Ya'll supporting Google's fight against Microsoft in the browser wars, something they've already won, but don't let them take the OS you're using away from you as well. Fight your issues with the OS with Microsoft directly, not as a pawn in Google's plans.
  • There about ~15 settings in Settings > Apps that can and need to be changed. My default browser is Edge Dev, but I still need to change those listed for Edge as well as for Edge Dev. Opting to set Edge Dev as default only changed some settings like http/https. And too many apps would still use Edge. I suspect some apps are hard-coded to use Edge, knowing it is pre-installed.
  • I like it... :-)
  • I'm indifferent on this. I think MS could provide a secure way for certain links to open in the user's default browser. However, I also think that MS as the developer of these Taskbar apps should have absolute control over that experience, however they want. Just like if Google Earth wanted to use Chrome to open functions, that would be within Google's rights. It's not browser control, it's controlling the app/functional experience. I think that's fair and fine, but I would prefer those apps if they allowed users to use any browser with them (as I would prefer Google Earth if it permitted opening features in Edge or Firefox). In other words, I don't think it's heavy-handed of MS to do this, and support their right to do it, but I also think it's unfortunate that they don't provide any mechanism for user customization for their Taskbar and Widget app displays. That would be a nice feature enhancement.
  • That's fine with me as I use edge as I would also expect Microsoft to do this on Microsoft Windows. Not so sure why this is always a Microsoft thing. Apple does this Google does this..
  • Where exactly does Apple do this?
  • On preview, mail, calendar, reminders. Add a link and boom, it opens it in Safari. I've seen this on my home laptop.
  • They could be smarter about it... and do it the way Google and Apple are doing on their mobile devices: using some kind of embedded WebView (with Edge in this case). That way, user won't see Edge by itself and it will provide a better user experience.
  • That's a good idea.
  • What actual protocol processing support did Microsoft add to Chromium that Google (and every other browser maker that uses Chromium) didn't? Or, is this really no more than a protocol alias that Microsoft established merely for arbitrary control?
  • I'm an Edge user and this doesn't really affect me. And I *HATE* this. This is old school Microsoft. Ugh. Why not use an app-embedded browser as mentioned elsewhere in the comments here? Some Windows Store apps already do that. It amounts to the same thing technically (I understand it is Edge) but at least it's not pushing users onto Edge.
  • I'm an Edge user, so don't really have a dog in this fight. But, do think that MS should allow browser choice, completely, if that is what the user wants. They should do that natively. I am not excited by the ability for some other arbitrary piece of software being able to intercept system calls and redirect them wherever it wants. That's what EdgeDeflector essentially does, so stopping that is fine. It is supposed to 'deflect' to where you want, but the ability to do that opens the possibility of doing what it wants.
  • Again, people will be outraged at this simple, harmless fact, when Google doing the same on Android (and probably Apple on their thing) won't make them bat an eye. That's called hypocrisy.
  • macOS and iOS both let you select a browser and honor your choice.
  • Riiight... Since when has Apple honoured it's word? Ok, in that context iOS is fine, but macOS? Never.
  • I hate that Google does this kind of thing. And others' hypocrisy doesn't make anticompetitive behavior right.
  • I don't understand - I use Firefox on android and I can't remember the last time chrome opened automatically. That never happens to me.
  • I do see this happen on Android sometimes, but I confess, I can't immediately think of an example. Maybe related to playing YouTube videos, not certain. I know that sometimes I touch a link and instead of opening in Edge (my browser on the Android Duo 2), it instead opens in Chrome.
  • Why do you act like it's a gotcha moment when you point out Google does a similar thing? We're against that too.
  • I have never seen chrome open on my Android device.
  • https://github.com/rcmaehl/MSEdgeRedirect
    There is something already for this. Its a little hacky in the way it work, but it essentially watches for the process to fire up, kill it, and then open up something else, but it does work.
  • While I don't necessarily agree with Microsoft doing this, No, that's not right, I totally disagree with Microsoft doing this! I use Edge, so bottom line, makes no difference to me at this point. Could in the future though and that's why I don't agree with what Microsoft is doing here.
  • So what happens if you Uninstall edge
  • Apple and Google have been doing this for years on their devices. iOS is the same with default browsers and password managers. We’re past the OS monopoly at this point for MS, they can do this now just like everyone else. I really don’t care about it either. Why are you using the system news app to open bing weather in another browser? Especially when Edge is using Chromium anyway.