Jul 01 2009

Firefox Default Browser

Category: WindowsTeknovis @ 7:28 pm

The other issue (besides Removing Windows Media Player Icons) that I spent a lot of time trying to resolve over the weekend was setting Firefox as my default browser!

I have several Windows 2000 Workstation computers that are setup identically, and I use roaming profiles so that I only need to maintain a single profile. Firefox is configured as my default browser, and the option to Always check to see if Firefox is the default browser on startup is enabled (see Default browser).

Everything worked perfectly, except on one computer! This troublesome computer would always ask me if I wanted to make Firefox my default browser the first time that I ran it in a single login session! This made me think that the problem must be somewhere in the Registry under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT. However, I could not understand why I was only prompted the first time I ran Firefox.

I eventually found a very explanatory article called How Does Your Browser Know that It’s Not The Default? that describes how Firefox associates itself with protocols and file types. I could see the values of the relevant keys in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT changing when I ran Firefox. I was surprised that these values could be changed using a normal user account!

The thing that I did not know until I read the article was that HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT is actually created dynamically when the user logs in by merging the computer’s settings in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Classes and the user’s settings in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes. This is described in more detail in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT Key.  So Firefox was not configured as the default browser in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Classes.

Ultimately, the solution was very easy :o I used the Add/Remove Programs setting in the Control Panel of the Administrator account as described in Setting default browser manually.

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