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Issue #587: October 21-27, 2018

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Q: I have the same problem you addressed in your July 14, 2018 column (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #572, July 8, 2018) about not being able to click on hyperlinks in Microsoft Outlook and getting the exact same message to contact my system administrator. This is a home computer. I tried following the suggestions you gave to fix the problem. On the page you linked, it refers to Microsoft Internet Explorer as the browser. I do not have Internet Explorer but use Chrome as my default browser. I tried the first 2 solutions on that page but they did not work and the notice came up saying it did not work on my version. So I am still not able to use any email hyperlinks. Do you have any other ideas to offer to fix this problem? This has been going on for months now, is very frustrating, and, not sure, but it may have started after an update.

 – Johnny W.
Miramar Beach, Florida

A:  I guess I’m not terribly surprised that the Microsoft Fix-It didn’t work when your default browser is a non-Microsoft product, Johnny.  I looked around a bit, and I didn’t see Google offering any sort of automated fix for the problem, so I guess we’re going to have to tackle it manually.

The heart of this problem seems to be what is selected as the so-called default browser in Windows.  To explain, for certain standard functions, Windows has the ability for you to define program defaults that it runs whenever that function is triggered.  These functions include such things as e-mail, audio and video playback, and, of course, web browsing.  It is the latter function that gets triggered when you click a hyperlink.  Basically, Windows launches the default application, and then passes it the hyperlink so it can load it for you.  Pretty simple, and very smooth, when it’s working properly.

The error you, and reader Donna P. from Issue #572 are dealing with, crops up when something has gone wrong with Windows information that defines the default browser.  And, like many things in Windows, there seem to be a number of things that can, and do go wrong on occasion (Thanks, Bill!).  Your speculation that it started after an update might be spot-on.  The update in question might have tweaked the browser default, which might not have caused an issue if your default browser wasn’t Chrome.  Of course, I’m only speculating based on the facts as I know them, but I feel like it’s a pretty good guess.  However, without a good scrutiny of how you have Chrome installed, and how your browser defaults are configured, there is no real way to know for sure.

The way to fix this is to force Windows to reset the browser defaults.  There are a couple of ways to go about this, and none of them are intuitive, or particularly graceful.  One way you could do it is to set the default browser to something else, then change it back.  This, of course, causes Windows to store a fresh set of browser default data.  To accomplish this, go to the Start button and enter “Default apps” in the search box.  Click on “Default app settings” in the search results, and you’ll find yourself looking at the Settings applet, with the application default page showing.  Find the entry for “Web browser” and click it.  You’ll get a pop-up list of every web browser that you currently have installed.  Choose one – for the sake of argument, let’s say Edge.  Then close the dialog to get back to your system.  Now, go and try one of those hyperlinks, and you should find that it works, but opens Edge.  Follow the instructions above to go back to the Default app settings dialog, and this time change your default browser to Chrome.  If the problem is indeed the browser defaults, this should clear-out the cobwebs, and restore your hyperlink functionality.  Good luck!

 Geek Note: The thoughts and prayers of all of us here at Geek Central are with those in the communities devastated by Hurricane Michael.  For those of you who don’t know, this column publishes out of the area of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, a scant 60 miles from where the storm made landfall.  The cleanup, and the tiny amount of damage we had at the Geek House is nothing compared to what the people just a few counties over are going through.  I hope you can find it in your heart to do something to help out.  If you just don’t know how you can help, may I suggest a donation to the Red Cross, earmarked for “Hurricane Michael Relief.”  Even a small amount will be combined with the donations of others and will go a long way to providing much-needed comfort.  Thanks, my Geeks!

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