Make Gmail Your Default Email in Windows

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If you use Gmail as your primary email, here’s how to set it as the default email service in Windows.

If you’ve tried to use links that share content via email (mailto links) you’ve probably run into errors or Windows attempting to open an installed email program.
You can change default programs for many file types and protocols in Windows, but Gmail is not available as an option because Gmail is an email service on the internet (as are Outlook, Hotmail and Yahoo). Since it isn’t installed in Windows, it’s not an option in default programs.

With a few steps, Gmail can be used as the default email in Windows. There are two parts to the process, neither is too difficult.
• The first part is to set Gmail as the default email in your browser. If you use more than one browser, set it as the default email in each browser.
• The second part is setting your browser (or the one you use most if you use more than one) as the default email in Windows.

1. Set Gmail as the default email in your browser

Firefox
Launch Firefox. Select the three bars menu in the upper right corner of the window. Select Options > General > Applications > mailto. Click on the dropdown arrow in the box next to mailto and select Gmail.

Google Chrome
Launch Chrome.
Select the three dots menu in the upper right corner of the window.
Choose Settings.
Scroll to Advanced at the bottom of the page.
In the Privacy and Security section, open Site Settings by clicking on the arrow to the right.
Scroll to Handlers and select it.
Toggle the “Allow sites to ask to become default handlers for protocols (recommended)” to On.
Sign in to your Gmail account.
Click the handler icon in the address bar. It's on the right side, by the star. It looks like two overlapped diamonds. When you hover over it with the mouse, the pop up says “This page wants to install a service handler”.
A pop up box will appear that says “Allow mail.google.com to open all email links?” choose Allow.

2. Set the default email program in Windows

Windows 10
Settings > Apps > Default Apps > Email > Choose the browser you want to use for Gmail.

Windows 7 and 8
Select Start > Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Associate a file type or protocol with a program > choose MAILTO under Protocols. Select the browser you want to use for Gmail.
(note: default programs is often listed in the Start menu on the right side, shorter than going through Control Panel)

This site has step by step how to and screen shots for setting the default email in Chrome, Firefox and Edge. In the Chrome directions, it leaves out the step to click the handler icon in the address bar.
If you have Edge Chromium installed, it should be listed as an option in the default programs (it’s listed in Windows 10 here). Other browsers may or may not be listed. On my system Brave, Firefox, and Edge Chromium are options. Waterfox is not listed.

This should make links that open a Windows program open with Gmail in your browser with no more error messages or Windows trying to open a native email client.
 

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Comments

Don't bother. Use Thunderbird with other email providers that respect privacy, and eschew gmail.

I checked this on Windows 7 and Linux Mint:

In Firefox 72, click on the hamburger menu, --> Preferences>-->Files and applications--> Applications--> mailto. Then select GMail or Yahoo, or other, in the dropdown.

Worked like a charm. Oddly, it took me a few minutes to find a webpage with a mailto: tag. Nobody likes spam.

Yes, exactly.
If I understand correctly, the question was about settings defaults in Windows 10.

On Windows 7, there is no protocol for MAILTO.

Any suggestions?

It seems that missing mailto protocol on Windows 7 is an issue. I would ask first if you checked every entry to the end of all of the default programs? If I recall correctly there's more than one section (I think the second section is protocols and that's where the mailto should be) that's sorted alphabetically. I've missed something more than once by not going through the whole thing. I can't verify that, as Windows 10 isn't sorted that way.
Also check that email programs are available in the default programs - it will go something like this: Default Programs applet >Set program access and computer defaults>  Expand the Custom selection.

I found one suggestion that looks workable. I don't have Windows 7 so I can't test it, and I recommend a back up and/or making a restore point before making any changes.
1. Brink (sevenforums, tenforums, etc) has a reg file that should restore the protocol. I've downloaded reg and bat files from his sites for years and they've all been safe. The reg file sets Windows Live Mail as the program, but if the mailto protocol is restored you can change it in default programs. It's in the 4th post. The thread might be worth a read:
Mailto protocol missing Solved - Windows 7 Help Forums

If that doesn't work, the registry key might be missing or corrupted. Click Start, type regedit, and choose it when it appears in the list. If you make any changes back up registry first: Inside regedit, click File > Export.
The key should be here:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\mailto\shell\open\command\ <default email>

If it's missing, I'm not sure how to restore it in Windows 7. You can search or you can do an in place reinstall of Windows 7.
Directions are here, I would create a back up of the whole hard drive before doing a reinstall.
https://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/3413-repair-install.html

 

Yes, get off Windows 7 and use Linux instead.

I like Linux and I have nothing against it. But, one of the reason that totally puts me off is the fan boy attitude of Linux users. This comment of yours is really useless regarding the query of the user. Find other ways to promote Linux. Such fan boy comments do not help Linux at all... it does the opposite.

Linux is a good option for many, and not an option at all for others. Same for Apple I would guess. I like all the platforms.

Would like your permission to publish this info to my website -- I will give full attribution. Okay?

Yes, a link back would be appreciated.

Thank you, rhiannon -- will do.

Even after completing Step 1, the only Windows 10 default email app options available for me (step 2 above) are: 'Outlook' and 'Look for an app in the Microsoft Store'. I use Firefox, and it's set as the default browser. Any way to add Firefox as a default email app option? I've seen posts where people suggest regedit changes. Is that the option?

The only option I can think of to set Firefox to open .eml files. If you have or can create/save an email on your computer in the .eml format you can choose what to open it with. Directions here:

Choose Default Apps in Windows 10 | Tutorials

I can't find a way to add programs to Windows 10 default programs, apparently they've shut that down - I've been looking for a few hours and can't find anything. Maybe you'll have better luck.

Thanks rhiannon for your research. Like you, I have been unable to find a Windows resolution to be able to set Firefox as an option for mailto. I'll keep looking and post here if I find anything.

I'll do the same. I found a few more things yesterday, but none of them worked. There's a way to open the old version of default programs through the Run box, but when I do that, the old version loads and then in a flash the Settings version opens even with elevated privileges.
</sigh>