How to customise Windows' defaults

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How to customise Windows' defaults

Our detailed guide shows how to change Windows 10's default programs, file associations, email, search, printer and device settings.

If you’ve upgraded to Windows 10, or bought a PC running the new operating system, you’ll notice that Microsoft’s apps are the defaults for all your PC’s functions: Groove Music for playing music, Photos for viewing photos, and so on. And, if you’re new to the operating system, it’s not particularly obvious how to change those defaults.

We’ll show you how to set new defaults, as well as a secret way to use Gmail in Chrome as your default email service, how to set your default printer and scanner, and how to change the default search engine.

1. Install your favourite programs and reset

Ensure that you’ve installed any third-party program or app that you want to set as your default. Now open the Start menu, click Settings, System, then click ‘Default apps’.

Some programs may have automatically set themselves as defaults after you installed them. If you’re happy with that, then leave it as the default. If not, click the Reset button at the bottom to reset all your apps to Microsoft’s defaults. You’ll now see Microsoft Edge as your default web browser, Films & TV as your default video player, and so on. You can now systematically change each one.

2. Change the default apps

To change your default app for any of the functions (such as ‘Music player’), click the current default (Groove Music). You’ll now see a list of installed programs/apps that you can use as your default for that function. Click to select the one you want (such as ‘VLC media player’).

If a program or app you want to use doesn’t appear within the list, then you'll need to add it manually...

3. Add to the list of potential default programs

For example, Photos is Windows' default ‘Photo viewer’ app. If you click to change it (see Step 2), you’ll see a list of alternative programs. You’ll notice that some third-party programs (such as the popular IrfanView) won’t appear, even if they’re installed on your PC.

Using IrfanView as an example, here’s how to add it to the list. First, scroll to the bottom of the ‘Default apps’ section and click ‘Set defaults by app’. You’ll now see an alphabetical list of all the programs and apps on your PC. Select IrfanView, then click ‘Set this program as default’. This will set IrfanView as the default program for all the file types associated with it (photos, images and screenshots).

4. Associate file types

Alternatively, you can choose which file type you want to set IrfanView as your default for. To do this, select the program in the alphabetical list on the left, then click ‘Choose defaults for this program’ below.

Now click the Current Default heading and scroll down the list. You’ll see that the Photos app is set as your default for most photo file formats. Tick the file formats you want to set IrfanView as your default for (.jpg, gif, .png, .raw and .tif are the most common image formats), then click Save. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 to change your defaults for all the programs and apps that don’t appear within your list in the ‘Default apps’ section.

Next: change defaults for email, devices and search. 

5. Change the default email for Office 365 users…

Your default Email app is set to Mail. If you want to change this to Outlook, then ensure you’ve installed Office on your PC. To install the latest version, go to and log in with your Microsoft account. 

Next, click the Install button, run the downloaded setup file and wait for it to finish. After installing, open Outlook and log into your account. Now return to the ‘Default apps’ settings and set your default Mail app to Outlook.

6. And for Gmail users

You can set Gmail as your default email. To do this, open Chrome (download and install it first if needed), go to and log in to your account.

Next, click the Protocol Handler icon (at the right of your browser bar). If you don’t see this icon, skip to the next step. Now select Allow, then click Finished. Click OK if you see a pop-up message on your screen. Now return to the ‘Default apps’ section, click your default email app (Mail) and select Google Chrome.

After doing that, open Chrome again, click the three lines at the top right, Settings, then scroll to the bottom and click ‘+Show advanced settings’.

In the Privacy section, click the ‘Content settings’ button. Now scroll to the Handlers section and click the ‘Manage handlers’ button. Click the ‘mailto’ dropdown menu, select ‘’, then click Finished twice. From now on, whenever you click an email address link, it’ll open within Gmail in Chrome, ready for you to write your email.

7. Change the default search engine

Bing is the default search engine in Microsoft Edge. If you prefer using another search engine (such as Google or DuckDuckGo), you can set it as the default.

Launch Edge, then open the website you want to set as your search engine. Now click the three dots at the top right, Settings at the bottom, then scroll to the bottom again and click the ‘View advanced settings’ button. Click the Change button below Bing. You’ll see the website you’re on in a list. Click to select it, then click ‘Set as default’.

8. Set your default printer and scanner

Ensure both devices are connected to your PC. Now open Settings, click Devices, then click ‘Printers & scanners’.

If your device isn’t listed, click the Refresh button and wait for the list to update. If there’s a device you no longer use, select it and click ‘Remove device’. Now select your printer and click ‘Set as default’. Repeat this to set your default scanner.

7. Set default actions for devices

We’ll now show you how to set default actions when you connect any device (such as a mobile phone, external hard drive, SSD, CD or DVD) to your PC. Open Settings, Devices, then click AutoPlay. Ensure the AutoPlay slider is turned on.

Next, click the ‘Removable device’ dropdown menu and choose what you want. We recommend ‘Open folder to view files (File Explorer)’. Next, click the ‘Memory card’ dropdown menu and select an action. Connect your phone or tablet to your PC to see its option appear within this list. Now select what you want to do when you connect it to your PC.

This article originally appeared at IT Pro.

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Copyright © ITPro, Dennis Publishing

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