Make Gmail Your Default Email in Windows

If you use Gmail as your primary mail service, here’s how to make Gmail your default email 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.

I. Set Gmail as the default email in your browser


  1. Launch Firefox.
  2. Select the three bars menu in the upper right corner of the window.
  3. Choose Settings
  4. In the General panel, scroll down to Applications.
  5. Enter mailto into the Search box.
  6. Click on the Action column and select Use Gmail.

Google Chrome

  1. Launch Chrome.
  2. Select the three dots menu in the upper right corner of the window.
  3. Choose Settings.
  4. Scroll down to the Privacy and Security section, click Site Settings.
  5. Scroll down and click Additional permissions.
  6. Click Handlers.
  7. Select “Sites can ask to handle protocols”.
  8. Sign in to your Gmail account.
  9. Click the service handler icon in the address bar. (When you hover over the icon with the mouse, the pop up says “This page wants to install a service handler”.)
  10. A pop up box will appear that says “Allow to open all email links?” Choose Allow.

II. Set the default email program in Windows

Windows 10
Go to Settings (shortcut: Windows key + i) > Apps > Default Apps > Email, then 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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