How to Change Default Apps and Settings in Windows 10

As soon as you sign into Windows 10, Microsoft pushes its recommended apps and settings on you. If you don’t want to use a Microsoft account to log in, dislike Bing search baked into the OS, and hate Edge, you’ll be happy to know you can change all of these.

While you can’t change everything, it’s possible to adjust much of Windows 10’s out-of-the-box behavior. Here’s how to change default settings and apps in Windows 10.

What Does “Set As Default” Mean?

In case you’ve never thought about default programs before, the concept is pretty straightforward. Windows keeps a list of apps that it always uses to open certain types of media or links. These are called default programs.

For example, when you double-click an MP4 file, Windows opens it in your default video player. Out of the box, this is the Movies & TV app, but you can change it to a different player with more features.

When you want to use a non-default app to open a file, you need to right-click it and choose Open with to select another.

Windows Open With

How to Change Default Programs in Windows 10

Windows won’t automatically set new apps as the default when you install them. To change your default programs in Windows 10, follow these steps to access the default apps settings page:

  1. Go to Settings > Apps.
  2. Click Default apps in the pane on the left. You’ll see your default apps for common uses here, like Email, Music player, Web browser, and more.
  3. Click an app to see others installed on your system that can take its place, then select the one you’d like to set as default.

Windows 10 Default Apps Settings Page

If the app you want to use isn’t already installed, this panel will offer to let you search the Microsoft Store for one. Chances are you’ll want a traditional desktop app, not a Store app, as the default, though. Install the new app, then head back to this menu to set it as the default.

To change other defaults, scroll to the bottom of the default app settings page and you’ll see three more menus:

  • Choose default apps by file type: This lets you choose what apps should open a particular file type, such as PDF, MP3, and others. It’s a useful way to fix file type associations.
  • Choose default apps by protocol: Here, you can select what app should open when you click URIs containing protocols like mailto or ftp. Most users shouldn’t need to change these settings often.
  • Set defaults by app: In this menu, you can choose any app and manage the file types that it can open.

Windows Apps By Protocol

Default Programs in the Control Panel

The old Control Panel interface is still around in Windows 10, despite Microsoft migrating more of its functionality to the Settings app with every major update. It has a Default Programs section with four available menus, but all of them aside from AutoPlay (see below) redirect to the Settings app anyway.

However, if you still use Windows 7, you can use this Control Panel section to change your default programs.

Windows Control Panel Default Programs

If You Can’t Set the Default Windows 10 Browser

Sometimes, you might run into an issue where Windows 10 won’t remember the default browser after you change it. If this happens, first try uninstalling the browser in question and reinstalling it.

Should this fail to fix the problem, open the Set defaults by app section on the Default apps page, as discussed above. Look for the browser you want to set as default and choose Manage. Make sure every type of file listed here has your preferred browser selected.

Windows 10 Defaults By App

How to Change AutoPlay Defaults in Windows 10

Does your PC automatically open a File Explorer window when you plug in a USB drive, or auto-play inserted DVDs? This is called AutoPlay, which makes it easier to launch removable media.

If you don’t like the current behavior, you can change it. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Settings > Devices.
  2. Click AutoPlay in the pane on the left.
  3. You’ll see fields for Removable drive, Memory card, and other devices you’ve connected recently (such as your phone).
  4. For each one, click the dropdown box and choose a default action, like importing photos with Dropbox, playing videos with your video player, or asking you every time.
  5. To completely disable AutoPlay, turn off the Use AutoPlay for all media and devices slider.


If this isn’t enough control for you, you can change AutoPlay settings for specific types of media through the Control Panel. Search for Control Panel in the Start menu to open it. Change the Category dropdown in the top-right to Small icons, then select Default Programs > Change AutoPlay settings.

Here, you have many more choices for default actions. You can pick what various types of media do, and use AutoPlay for CDs, DVDs, software, and more.

Windows 10 AutoPlay Control Panel

Take caution about what you let run automatically. Historically, some malware has taken advantage of AutoPlay, making it easy to infect your computer if you plug a random flash drive in.

How to Replace Bing With Google on the Taskbar

The search function on the Taskbar can search the web in addition to your computer. However, Microsoft has locked this to always use Bing inside Edge.

If you’d rather search in your default browser, here’s how to replace Edge:

  1. Install a free app called EdgeDeflector and launch it. The app hasn’t been updated since late 2017, but still works fine as of this writing.
  2. You’ll see a prompt asking what app you want to use. Choose EdgeDeflector, check Always use this app, and hit OK.
  3. If you dismiss this dialog or it doesn’t appear, you’ll need to configure EdgeDeflector manually. To do this, go to Settings > Apps > Default apps and click Choose default apps by protocol at the bottom. Find the Microsoft-Edge protocol and change it to EdgeDeflector.

Edge Deflector Windows 10

Now, the app will run in the background and change Taskbar web searches from Edge to your default browser. However, these searches will still appear inside Bing. If you’d prefer to use Google or another search engine, do the following:

  1. If you use Chrome, install the Chrometana Pro extension. Firefox users should install Foxtana Pro, a port from the same developer.
  2. Upon installing, you’ll see instructions for setting your default browser and installing EdgeDeflector, which we’ve already taken care of.
  3. Click the Chrometana Pro icon at the top-right of your browser and choose Options. Here you can choose whether to redirect all Bing searches or just Cortana ones. You can also change from Google to DuckDuckGo or another search engine.

Chrometana Pro Settings

How to Change Keyboard Settings in Windows 10

You can find options to change the keyboard layout, language, and other related options at Settings > Time & Language on both the Region and Language tabs. Make sure your Country or region is set correctly on the Region page to show the proper options, including Windows display language on Language.

Windows 10 Change Regional Info

At the bottom of the Language page, you’ll see the languages currently on your system. Click Add a preferred language to add a new one. However, what’s more useful for most people is clicking the current language followed by Options. Here, you can click Add a keyboard to add another language or layout.

Even with English selected as your language, you’ll find everything from international keyboards like Japanese and German to alternate layouts like United States DVORAK. Of particular interest is the United States International layout, which lets you type accented characters with easy shortcuts.

Swap between keyboards anytime using the Win + Space shortcut.

How to Change the Default Folder View in Windows 10

Windows 10’s File Explorer contains several views, such as Details, Large icons, and Tiles. It applies a view based on the folder’s contents, and you can check what type of contents Windows considers a folder to have.

To do this, right-click any folder and choose Properties. On the Customize tab, you’ll see an option labeled Optimize this folder for.

These choices are General items, Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos. These are all self-explanatory aside from General items, which Windows uses for folders with mixed content.

Windows Folder Properties

If you’d like to set a consistent default view across all folders of a type, use this method:

  1. Locate a folder of the type you want to customize and open it.
  2. Use the View tab at the top of the window to apply the settings you’d like. You might choose to toggle the Navigation pane, change the Layout, adjust Sort by, and more.
  3. Once you’re happy with your changes, click Options on the right side of the View tab.
  4. Switch to the View tab in the Options window, and click Apply to Folders to change all folders of the type to your current view.

Windows 10 Change Folder View Options

Sign Into Windows 10 Without a Microsoft Account

Using a Microsoft account to sign into Windows 10 has benefits and drawbacks. Windows gives you the option to create a local account during setup, but you can delete your Microsoft login and use a local account if you change your mind later.

Windows may nag you to create a Microsoft account for syncing your data in apps, but Windows 10 works fine without it. Some features require a Microsoft account, and you’ll need to sign into one to purchase paid apps from the Store, but most functionality doesn’t require a Microsoft login.

Other than that, make sure you don’t forget your password because resetting the password on a local account is a hassle.

Reset to Windows 10’s Default Settings

Looking to reset all Windows 10 settings to default? Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to do this without performing a full reset. You can change your default programs back to the “Microsoft recommended defaults” at Settings > Apps > Default apps, but that doesn’t change anything else.

If you don’t mind a refresh to get back to default settings, using the option to reset Windows while keeping your files shouldn’t take long. Follow our guide to resetting Windows 10 to get started.

Your Windows 10 Defaults, Your Way

We’ve looked at how to change most of Windows 10’s default apps and behaviors. When your computer works the way you want it to, you’ll be much more productive. Remember to review these settings again after major Windows 10 updates, as they can sometimes change.

Windows 10 has a lot in its Settings menu that we didn’t explore here. To learn more, have a look at our guide to the Windows 10 Settings app and what you must do after installing Windows 10.

Image Credit: realinemedia/Depositphotos

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