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How To Change the Default Windows 8 Email Client

Windows 8 sets its new Mail app as the default email client. This is annoying when you click an email (MailTo) link on a webpage and you’re bounced into the new UI. Here’s how to change it to a different desktop email program like Outlook.

Changing the default client from the Mail app to something else is similar to making PDFs and Photos open on the Desktop, or preventing videos and music files from opening in Windows 8 apps.

Windows 8 Mail

Set Default Windows 8 Desktop Email Client

Open Control Panel on the Desktop and click Default Programs.

Control Panel Default Programs

Then click “Associate a File Type or Protocol with a Program” link.

Associate MailTo Protocol

Next in the Set Associations screen, scroll down the list until you find Protocols, and under that you’ll see MAILTO. It’s set to Mail – double click it.

MailTo File Association

A windows will pop up asking how you want to open the (mailto) link. Select one from the list or check the Windows Store for one. Here I’m sticking with Outlook 2013 for mailto links. Old habits are hard to break! I’ve been using Outlook since 97 and still prefer it today. It’s definitely better than the current version of the Mail app.

Change Default Mail MAILTO PRotocol

Set Webmail as Default in Chrome or Firefox

Using the method above will set your default email for all of your browsers. But you might want to drill down and customize it for each browser, and you can.

In Chrome you’ll probably want to set Gmail as your default email handler.

Gmail Default Email Chrome

Or if you’re a Firefox user, it’s easy to set the default email client to Gmail or another web based client.

Set Firefox Default Email

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24 Responses to How To Change the Default Windows 8 Email Client

  1. Craig March 6, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    Thanks for this article. However, when I open Control Panel–>Default Programs and look at Mailto, the only options are “Mail” and “Search the Store.” I don’t have Google Chrome installed, and would prefer not to install it, as I’m a Firefox user. want to use Gmail via Firefox for Mailto, but I can’t find an answer anywhere online as to how to get Firefox to show up as an option in the list. Any ideas? Thanks for any help you can offer.

    • Jason April 7, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      Craig, go to Firefox Options, Applications, and change mailto: to Gmail.

      • Craig April 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

        Thanks, Jason. Unfortunately, I’ve already done that and it doesn’t solve my problem. Your suggestion will work for Mailto: links I click on in Firefox, but not globally. For instance, if I click on a MailTo: link in MS Word, or my contact database, it looks for the default option set in Control Panel, and Firefox is not listed as an option there. For now, I’ve had to install Chrome to avoid using the Win8 Mail app for these situations, but it’s not ideal. Perhaps there’s no way to do this without a coding solution by Mozilla or an add-on developer. Thanks for trying to help me out here.

  2. Nigel April 23, 2013 at 1:17 am #

    Thanks for this tip. W8 seems to have made things more difficult for those of us used to a Mac. And I object to being tied to a MS login (as much as I object to an Apple ID)

    • Nigel December 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

      Well, I’m upgrading to Windows 7 over Christmas (when hopefully the workload will diminish). I would have done it months ago, but I haven’t had the time and I stupidly held out for v8.1 expecting it would cure all of its predecessor’s ills. It’s slightly less slack-jawed, but still to dumb.

  3. SA Stirling May 13, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    I went through your instructions but get to MAILTO and just seen the options of Outlook, Mail and Apps.

    I already selected Outlook and my Outlook (Outlook 2010) is not recognized. Is there any way to get WIndows 8 to use my Outlook 2010 client?

    Every time I turn around there is something that does not work correctly or is inaccessible with WIndows 8. I think it is designed to get you to buy all new software.

  4. Suzy Q May 31, 2013 at 12:40 am #

    I found the solution on another forum.

    Go to the Windows Essentials site and download the program. Then go to the Control Panel, Set Defaults, Set Program Access and computer defaults, Custom…..and there will be another option (Windows Live) which is now Outlook.

    I already had a Live/Outlook account, so you might want to go to Live.com and get one first. After you install it as the default, you can click the Read Mail icon in IE and get a link, and all the previously greyed out “Send link by email” etc. can now be used.

    • Gretchen January 11, 2014 at 10:49 am #

      Thank you for this suggestion. Got a new computer with Windows 8 for Christmas and am slowly chipping away at getting it to work how I want it to (NOT how some total techie envisioned people would want). This is one small step. Thank you!!!

      • Suzy Q January 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

        Gretchen, it took me about three weeks to find this real answer among forum posts. It’s crazy that Windows 8 is set up so badly and they don’t offer an official solution. I passed it along to as many forums as I could. Glad you found it. :)

  5. Dexter June 6, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    Can anyone help? I signed up on jy hew laptop using my gmail account. My gmail sends and recieves mail just fine. But I cannot send my word documents as attachments and im pretty sure I cant send any attachments. It says I need to associate them. Why I dont know. But whenbi go look for it I dont want to mess anything up and I need to send these word docs so I am loosing it! I already cant use my printer cause its a hp for windows 7 then I go to the ho website and find the download for windows 8 only to get pop ups saying that the file is corupt and cant be downloaded! So just what I need I get a new laptop for school I am doing EMT classes and need my printer and my gmail to send word docs and I cant do either! Anyone with some advise would be really helping me become sane again.

    • Martha December 5, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      Dexter, Had the same problem with my home laptop, took it to best by, they tried loading wordperfect 4.1 (free download Microsoft doesn’t advertise), It did not work my older laptop so I downloaded chrom, this took awhile with help it works. It is cumbersome to use in my opinion but I at least am able to get my documents out. I just set up folder on my desktop and save them there for quick east. Hope this helps.

  6. Sharon M July 19, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    I can’t find the MAILTO icon under protocols. Now what?

  7. Nancy September 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    While the graphics didn’t look exactly like what I had on my Windows 8 Control Panel I was able to follow the gist, make the change, and now email opens in Outlook (13) for me instead of the Windows email. Many thanks for sharing this. It was so nice to actually be able to win a battle for once.

  8. cathyb3 December 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    thank this- this was incredibly helpful, but I still cannot change the send mail or webcal or few other protocaols and programs away from being outlook, I should simply be able to select calendar from the app store or from my programs to open .hol right? so, when I click on a link on a site and need to send an email that way, it still defaults to outlook for sending mail…. ical doesn’t give an option for calendar….. any suggestions?

  9. Y.F February 11, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    Thank you. It is helpful.

  10. chick March 15, 2014 at 4:01 am #

    Great, thanks!

  11. Frances March 17, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    If only we had these options in Windows 8.1. I have tried everything to make Outlook my default or anything that will allow me to click on a photo and have the option to send to an email recipient like in Windows XP. I have Yahoo Mail, AT&T Mail, and Outlook and I keep getting the message “There is no email program associated to perform the requested action. Please install a email program or if one is installed, create an association in the Default Programs control panel. When I go there, click on the icon Mail, it gives no other option to change, correct, add, or delete. Disgusting.

    • Em Porter March 30, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      I am having the same problem!!! Sure would like to find out how to send pictures from
      Photo Gallery via e-mail!

  12. Melanie April 8, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    Wow… looks like there are many of us sharing the same frustration. I too just bought a computer with Windows 8.1 and am having the same issues with trying to send a picture, receiving the message, “Create an E-mail Association in Default Programs Control Panel.” without luck of it actually changing. I am sure there is a solution out there and hope we can all have this issue resolved soon. Someone? Thanks!!

    • Frances April 8, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

      Melanie,this is what I would love to do and have tried to do, but when I click on “Mail To”, it does not list Outlook at all. It only lists, Mail, Google Chrome, or the Store. I do not want Google, and when I go to the Store, everything that has the name Outlook on it, is not the email program and when I type in the search for Outlook Email, it does not come up. I spent a long time on the phone just today with Microsoft, and they did not solve this problem but kept giving the alternatives of how to “Send To”, and that was to forward your photos and files to a mail recipient. I got tired and gave up on the call. From reading other replies above, I see others have the same problem. I cannot imagine why MS does not list Outlook for an option to make it your default. At least it doesn’t on my Windows 8.1.Thank you for you input, however, and I have tried it over and over and does not work for me.

  13. Frances April 8, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    Oh yes, Melanie. I intended to add that it is OK with me to have Windows Mail as my default email program if it worked as default, even tho I prefer Outlook. But evidently it does not work as a default program because when I click on a photo or file to use the “send to mail recipient” option, this is the message that pops up. “There is no email program to perform the requested
    action. Please install an email program or if one is installed, create an association on the Default Programs Control Panel. This is what I tried to explain to MS on phone today that I could not use the “send to” option because none of my email programs worked as a default even tho I have tried all the steps as listed above to create an association. As stated, I want Outlook as default but it is not listed as an option.

    • Melanie April 9, 2014 at 9:15 am #

      Dear Frances, I took bits and pieces of what has been written above our comments (Thank you All!!) and I now have the ability to send pictures out of my Photo programs! I am not exactly 100% sure what it was that I did that finally made it work, but here is a bit more information:

      01.) I did a search on I.E. for Windows Essentials. I then downloaded Windows Essentials 2012.

      02.) Then went to Start>Control Panel>Programs>Default Programs>Associate a file type or protocol with a program> Double Click on MAILTO> Choose Windows Live Mail.

      03.) I have a GMail Account, so went into Tools and made sure that I had enabled IMAP for that account.

      04.) I went into I.E. and Tools > Compatibility View Settings> added e-mail account (not sure if this had anything to do with anything, but did this as well.)

      05.) Went into the two different Photo Programs that I have on my computer to send a photo. It downloaded my Gmail mail into an account (which was a little freaky, as I am not sure what was going on there, but at this point in my frustration, I decided I really didn’t care! Ha!)

      06.) The Pictures sent out! It took longer for the recipients to receive them, than before, but they sent.

      I hope this helps and I hope I didn’t forget something, as I didn’t write everything down as I went, which I wish now I had, so that I don’t misguide anyone in the steps I took.

  14. Frances April 9, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Whew!! Glad you have got this working for you. That is a headway. I plan to go through these steps and see what happens and will let you know. I have noticed on my programs list that I do have Windows Essentials. Thanks so much for all this info.

  15. Frances April 9, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Doesn’t work for me. It is as if I do not have an email program installed. One problem, when I went to IE>Tools>Compatibility View Settings, that required a website address, not an email account. I did add Outlook.com thinking that may make outlook email available but it didn’t. I already had Windows Essentials 2012 listed in my programs, so did not download it again. I can use all 3 of my email programs just fine, but still cannot use the “send to” option.

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