You can set Internet Explorer, instead of Edge, as the default web browser in Windows 10 with Group Policy. With the help of Dism, you can also set IE as the default browser in your reference image. However, this alone is not enough to ensure that users always work with Internet Explorer.
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In a previous post, I explained how you can uninstall IE in case you only want to ensure that your users only use Edge to access the web. In another post, I described how you can work with Enterprise Mode Site List Manager to ensure that Internet Explorer is used for particular web pages and web apps.

However, I believe that many admins will pursue another strategy and continue to count on Internet Explorer in their network. Internet Explorer is a well-tested browser that offers maximum compatibility and is highly customizable with more than 1,600 Group Policy settings.

Edge, on the other hand, is a truly Spartan browser that currently offers only a handful of Group Policy settings. If you move to Edge, you have to inform users about the new browser, ensure that favorites are imported properly, and then hope that the new browser won’t bump into web applications that were developed for previous Internet Explorer versions. Perhaps you just don’t want to demand too much from your users and allow them to keep working with Internet Explorer until everyone is used to Windows 10.

To ensure that your users continue to work with Internet Explorer instead of Edge, you have to do three things. You first have to set Internet Explorer as the default browser in your reference image or use Group Policy to set the default browser in your network. Then, because it is not possible to uninstall Edge, you also have to replace Edge with IE on the taskbar and remove Edge from the Start menu. Without the last two steps, your users will keep using Edge even if you set Internet Explorer as the default browser.

Setting Internet Explorer as the default browser has two effects. First, whenever a user clicks an HTTP or HTTPS hyperlink in a document (in Word, for example), Windows will launch Internet Explorer instead of Edge. The second effect is that local HTML files will be opened in IE.

Set Internet Explorer as the default browser via Group Policy ^

Unfortunately, no simple Group Policy switch exists to do the trick, and the entire procedure is a bit longwinded. First, you have to manually set Internet Explorer as the default on a reference machine. Click Start and then Settings > System > Default apps. Under Web browser, you can configure Internet Explorer as the default.

Setting Internet Explorer as the default browser in Windows 10 Settings

Setting Internet Explorer as the default browser in Windows 10 Settings

Next, you have to export this setting to an XML file with the Dism tool that is shipped with Windows 10:

Dism /Online /Export-DefaultAppAssociations:\\server\share\defaultassociations.xml

This commands exports all file associations on your reference computer to an XML file on a network share. Thus, you have to make sure that you didn’t modify other app associations that you don’t want to deploy in your network. By the way, you can also use the method described here to set Chrome or Firefox as the default browser.

Next, you can deploy this XML file with the Group Policy Set a default associations configuration file, which is located in Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer. Unfortunately, no user configuration exists for this policy.

Setting a default associations configuration file

Setting a default associations configuration file

Set Internet Explorer as the default browser in a WIM image ^

You can also easily modify your reference images with Dism before you deploy Windows 10. You can use the same XML configuration as for the Group Policy. If you are responsible for OS deployment in your organization, you probably know how to modify WIM images. After you export the default file associations, you have to mount your WIM image, import the configuration, and then write the changes to the WIM file:

Dism /Online /Export-DefaultAppAssociations:C:\wim\config\AppAssociations.xml
Dism /Mount-Image /ImageFile:C:\wim\images\install.wim /index:1 /MountDir:C:\wim\offline
Dism.exe /Image:C:\wim\offline /Import-DefaultAppAssociations:C:\wim\config\AppAssociations.xml
Dism /Unmount-Image /MountDir:C:\wim\offline /Commit

Importing file associations into a WIM image

Importing file associations into a WIM image

Perhaps you want to verify that the changes have been applied to your image. You can do this with this command before you unmount the image:

Dism.exe /Image:C:\wim\offline /Get-DefaultAppAssociations

Internet Explorer is the default application for http and https

Internet Explorer is the default application for http and https

Remove Edge from taskbar and Start ^

If you want to prevent users from working with Edge, you have to remove its icons from the taskbar and from the Start menu.

Unfortunately, no straightforward way exists to configure the taskbar via Group Policy. One way to get rid of the Edge icon on the taskbar is to unpin Edge on a reference machine, export the Taskband Registry key (HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > Explorer > Taskband) to a REG file, and convert the REG file to an XML file that you can then import into Group Policy Preferences (User Configuration > Preferences > Windows Settings > Registry).

This method allows you to deploy a specific taskbar configuration. However, when I tried to pin Internet Explorer to the taskbar and deploy the corresponding Taskband setting, the link in the taskbar no longer worked. (Update: See comment bellow.)

A problem with this method is that users can’t pin their apps to the taskbar. This also applies to the Remove pinned programs from the Taskbar Group Policy, which you can find in User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar.

Removing pinned programs from the taskbar

Removing pinned programs from the taskbar

Things are bit easier with the Start menu if you are working with Windows 10 Enterprise. You can configure Start on a reference computer, export the configuration to an XML file, and deploy it via Group Policy. Even though the policy description doesn’t mention Microsoft’s latest OS, the policy works fine on Windows 10. I’ve described the method in detail in a previous blog post.

Conclusion ^

Microsoft tries hard to make its customers work with its latest software. Even though I always recommend adopting new technologies as fast as possible, I know that not all organizations can move at the same pace. Thus, I wish Microsoft would offer just one simple Group Policy setting that allows admins to set the default web browser, including the corresponding modifications to the Start menu and the taskbar. One way to avoid all this trouble is to work with the Windows 10 Enterprise LTB because this Windows edition comes without Edge.

52 Comments
  1. CE 4 years ago

    This no longer works for Windows 10 Enterprise version 1703 for wrestling control away from Edge. After running the GPO rule on a new user logon- notifications immediately pop up saying a default application has caused an error and the default application has been reset to Edge. And Edge reclaims EVERYTHING. ALL assigned associations for itself, including .pdf (whether you have a 3rd party pdf app installed or not). Forcing it to run again will not fully render the default application associations you want. Edge will not give up control of the .pdf or .epub extension unless you manually change it in the control panel. Plus, even after re-importing the xml file by running the GPO rule or DISM manually, windows will still ask you on first launch what program you want to use to open the document, including everything you attempted to set for Internet Explorer or pdf's. And guess which app appears at the top for applications to open urls, websites, pdf's, etc? You guessed it; Edge.

  2. dandan ye 4 years ago

    how can I enable policy setting not configured/enabled/disabled automatically for "set a default associations configuration file"?can we change the state by registry?

  3. RAFEEQ 3 years ago

    I tried this method and the group policy is applying too , Still no- luck  . Can you lend me some tips to sort out to make IE as default browser via GPO .

  4. Justin 3 years ago

    Use LTSB version of windows 10 in enterprises, Edge is not part of it

  5. sarvind maan 3 years ago

    Dear Sir,

    Not show file explore in windows components (Group Policy)

    Please suggest me how o show.

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