Safari is the default browser in macOS and has been ever since Apple first built its own web browser. Before that, for a while, it was Internet Explorer — but the less said about that the better, and before that it was Netscape Navigator. Remember that?
Safari is a perfectly good web browser and offers most of the features of its competitor web browsers, including autofill for forms and credit card details, secure password storage, and the ability to request that websites do not track you. Given Apple’s recent focus on privacy, it’s not unlikely that Safari will soon be the best option all round for Mac users who want to surf the net securely and without handing over personal data.
However, there are perfectly good reasons why you might want to use a different browser. Performance is one of them. While Safari is pretty speedy, for some users in some circumstances it’s slower than Chrome or Firefox. Or it might be that there are extensions you need that are only available in Chrome, or perhaps a website you use regularly doesn’t work properly in Safari.
What is a default web browser?
Before we get to how to change your default web browser, it’s worth considering what a default web browser is and does. Put simply, it’s the web browser that opens a link when you click on it in an email or other document. If you use Spotlight and click on a result from the web, it will open in your default browser. In fact any task that opens a URL will be performed in that web browser. It doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t use other browsers to surf the net.
So, if you just need to access specific sites in Chrome or Firefox, you don’t need to change your default browser. Even if Safari is you default browser, you can open any link in another browser, by holding down the Control key when you click on it and selecting Copy Link, then paste it in the address bar of any browser you like.
How to set the default browser in macOS El Capitan or later, and OS X Yosemite
Apple changed the way you set the default browser in OS X Yosemite and it has remained the same since then. Previously, as you’ll see below, you had to open Safari to, say, make Google Chrome the default browser. As Apple realised, eventually, that’s plain daft. Here’s how to do it now.
- Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
- Choose the General tab.
- Just over half way down, there’s a menu next to “Default web browser.” Click on it and choose the browser you want to set as the default.
How to change the default web browser in OS X Mavericks or earlier
- Launch Safari.
- Click on the Safari menu and choose Preferences.
- Click on the General tab.
- Choose the web browser you want to use as the default by clicking on the menu next to Default web browser.
- Close Preferences.
- Quit Safari.
Other methods for changing your default web browser
Every browser wants to be the default — it’s the most obvious way to increase user numbers. And so whenever you open a browser that’s not the default, you’ll see a pop up window asking if you want to set it as your browser of choice. If you choose so, it will change the System Preferences setting and position itself as the default.
If you refuse and later decide you want to make it the default after all, that’s easy too. Here’s how you do it in some of the more popular browsers for macOS.
- To make Chrome the default browser, first of all launch it.
- Click on the Chrome menu and select Preferences.
- In the web page that opens, scroll down until you see Default Browser.
- Click Make Default.
- Launch Firefox.
- In the Firefox menu, click Preferences.
- Make sure General is selected in the left hand sidebar (it should be blue).
- At the top of the page, you should see “General” and underneath it, a message saying that Firefox isn’t currently your default browser. To the right of that, click Make Defaul.
- Launch Opera.
- Click on the Opera menu and select Preferences.
- In the web page that opens, make sure Basic is selected on the left hand side.
- Click on Make Opera my default browser.
- Launch Vivaldi.
- Click the Vivaldi menu and choose Preferences.
- Make sure Startup is selected in the left hand sidebar.
- Click on Set as Default.
3 tips to make your browser fast
Whichever web browser you use, there are some tips you should remember in order to keep it running optimally.
1. Always use the most up-to-date version.
Safari updates with macOS system updates, so make sure you install system updates when they become available. Most browsers automatically update themselves when you close and reopen them. But if you keep them open permanently, they won’t update. So the easiest way to keep them updated is to quit them every now and again.
2. Don’t keep lots of tabs open at once.
Open tabs, even those that are hidden, consume RAM, processor cycles, and energy. The more you have open, the slower your Mac will become. So close tabs you no longer need.
3. Remove extensions and plugins you don’t use.
As taking up space, extensions and plugins that become out of date can be a security risk, so get rid of them. The simplest way to do that is to use a dedicated app like CleanMyMac 3. To quickly delete useless extensions, follow the steps:
- Launch CleanMyMac 3.
- Click Extensions.
- Choose Chrome extensions or internet plugins you don’t use and press Remove.
As you can see, setting your default web browser in macOS is very easy — choosing which browser to use maybe less so. Whichever browser you choose, you should maintain it to keep it running optimally, CleanMyMac 3 can help do that easily.