BrokenURL prevents URLs from being opened in the default browser automatically

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 31, 2020
Updated • Aug 31, 2020
Software, Windows, Windows software

BrokenURL is a free software program for Microsoft Windows devices designed to give users a choice when it comes to the opening of URLs opened externally (outside the browser).

If you are a Windows user, you may have noticed that certain events, the installation or uninstallation of programs, a click on an URL in a messenger app or email client, open the target URL in the default system browser by default.

While that is the desired action at times, it may not be all the time. Windows comes without any option to change the behavior, e.g. by displaying a browser choice dialog.

BrokenURL implements such a dialog on the system. Whenever you activate a link manually outside of the browser, or when a program does so automatically, its dialog is displayed. The program display the installed browsers and you may select one for that particular link. It has built-in functionality to unshorten shortened links according to the settings, but it may not work with all link shorteners. It did not work with Twitter links during tests.

Besides regular browser instances, it may also be used to open these links in private windows and in new browser windows. The private windows option may be useful in certain situations, e.g. to limit or eliminate some forms of tracking.

Downside to using BrokenURL is that you get the dialog for manually opened links as well. Good news is that the developer thought of that. The "save this choice" option provides the functionality.

Check it before selecting a browser to display a second configuration dialog.

save browser target

You may configure automatic behavior based on the process the link was opened from or based on the hostname. The screenshot that you see above highlights the choice.

A click on a link on the desktop or in any folder on the system provides the option to make all Windows Explorer links open in the selected browser, or only URLs that match the hostname.

Once done, links will get automatically in the selected browser; this takes care of shortcuts and links that you want to open in a specific browser all the time.

URLs that come from different sources, e.g. a different application, will still prompt the browser choice dialog.

BrokenURL comes with settings and options to modify actions that you have saved in the past. You need to open the program from the Start Menu as it does not place an icon in the taskbar or system tray area.

The two actions displayed at the bottom are used to manage saved choices and to manage the list of browsers.

Manage Browsers displays the list of detected browsers on the system. There is no option to add browsers that have not been detected, e.g. portable ones, but you can disable certain browsers to reduce the size of the menu.

Managed Saved Choices displays all automatic actions that you set up in the past. You may delete those again from the menu.

Other options provided in the settings include disabling the automatic check for updates and showing a program window in the taskbar for easier management of the settings,

Closing Words

BrokenURL is a handy program for Windows that acts as a proxy for URLs opened outside of browsers. You can set up default actions for some programs or link targets to speed things up and bypass the dialog, or handle URLs on a case by case basis instead.

Now You: Do you open URLs in the default browser?

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  1. Lore Galore said on September 13, 2020 at 12:46 am

    I love this. With Thunderbird always prompting me to update – and lose Open With and other extensions – it helps with that problem including if I switch to The Bat!. I also don’t like software that ignores my default browser and opens MS browser(s). Very useful software here.

  2. KeZa said on September 5, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    Crapware. Does not work on w7-64bit when I have Firefox open and after de installation there is crap of it I see with Revo…

    1. Tom Hawack said on September 6, 2020 at 5:16 pm

      KeZa, BrokenURL 1.2.2 working flawlessly here, be the browser (Firefox included) open or not.
      Your issue is likely sourced elsewhere. Pity an excessively rapid conclusion brings out the word ‘crapware’ which is obviously incorrect.

  3. ben said on September 3, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    I have been using a different fix for unwanted url openings. I use a chrome fork as my actual main browser but have firefox set as the pc default. Firefox is set to open with the profile manger, so those unwanted links always go to the firefox profile manager and then I choose if I should open or not.

  4. MamadoNyang said on September 1, 2020 at 11:54 am

    That seems decent, I’ll give it a try but here’s my method before trying this software:

    1- install a secondary browser and make it the default browser.
    2- go to its installation directory and change the name of the .exe file of the browser.

    now instead of annoying links opening automatically you’ll get an error message or nothing at all, the downside of this method is that you have to open links manually.
    I’ll try this software and see.

  5. owl said on September 1, 2020 at 4:52 am

    @Martin Brinkmann,
    Closing Words
    BrokenURL is a handy program for Windows that acts as a proxy for URLs opened outside of browsers. You can set up default actions for some programs or link targets to speed things up and bypass the dialog, or handle URLs on a case by case basis instead.
    Now You: Do you open URLs in the default browser?

    Yes. By Windows Settings, I was choosing (defining) “default apps”.

    I am interested in Martin’s article and tried this application (BrokenURL).
    I can’t customize the sorting of the Browsers List in “Settings”,
    but when I actually use it, the display order changes according to the frequency of use of the browser, so I was not dissatisfied.
    It is certainly beneficial.
    I liked it very much.

    1. preseverence said on September 20, 2020 at 10:13 pm


      You can uncheck “sort browsers by usage” in settings window (not the browsers list window). This will enable Up/Down arrows in Browsers List and allow you to customize browsers order in main window.

  6. what said on September 1, 2020 at 4:45 am

    the app constantly connect to internet even when “reveal shortened links” is disabled to it send all the links to their servers???

    1. Tom Hawack said on September 1, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      @what, here ‘BrokenURL’ connects to the Internet *only* to check for updates, which is an option available in ‘BrokenURL Settings’ / Check for updates / 2, 10, 30, 365 days or once per century.
      Century may be short but the application doesn’t provide anything more, ‘never’ is a lack obviously.

      1. what said on September 6, 2020 at 11:44 pm

        it try to connect each time, you can check it even when set to once per century

  7. Yuliya said on August 31, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    You don’t need any 3rd party program to not set a default browser. I’ve always done that:
    It prevents nonsense like “tell us why you’ve uninstalled our program after you click [Finish]” for ever happening. Mozilla does this when you uninstall Firefox. It also prevents accidental opening when you click one of those links embedded into the UI of some programs, whether text or image, for instance uTorrent had links to their page for the Android client and their twitter account next to some details button. Annoying!
    It’s doable on Win7 too.
    I have a mouse, I can copy and paste links into my browser too. I don’t need your forced webpages prompted when you feel like doing so, tyvm

  8. Huy said on August 31, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    I also use BrowserSelect, but its good to know there is another option out there now.

  9. Paul(us) said on August 31, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Really nice article (like always! :-) ) from you, Martin.
    I was always troubled by the security of opening links after I installed a program.
    But there are more occasions like you described in, your like always ferry easy to read, Ghacks articles, that I wanted to make a choice where the URL was opened.

    The only thing I wondering about is that I noticed that if I am using (as an example) Firefox 80, not in private mode and I am wanting to open a link in a thunderbird email BrokeUrl is than not offering a Firefox private mode possibility? Is this a good thing or not?

  10. Joe said on August 31, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    Alternative is app called Browser Select.

  11. Mystique said on August 31, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    I’m not sure how this differs to other similar programs but in the past I used Browser Chooser and then a fork called Browser Chooser 2 for a short while but have since moved onto Browser Select which seems to do the job well enough whilst it doesn’t give you option to open up in a private/incognito tab/window it does however allow you to set patterns for you to define certain urls to certain browsers without prompt.

    All of the above were and are freeware with the latter ‘Browser Select’ being the better of the three.
    I highly recommend it.

    I do love that when you set Browser Select as the default browser (or handler of links) you can easily avoid having your browser popup after a software installation or removal (totally annoying when devs do that) which is annoying when you have a large session on a particular browser.

  12. Shadowed said on August 31, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    I don’t know about later versions but Win7 has a GUI for managing default applications for protocols such is http(s): or any other. It’s same place as for file associations: Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Default Programs\Set Associations

    1. Anonymous said on August 31, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      Not anymore in Windows 10. Now it redirect us to the poorly designed settings app. It takes 20 seconds to list all protocols, then we have to scroll through a largely padded list made for mobile phones. What ever happened to list views? I think its time Microsoft fired the settings app team and revert everything back into the control panel.

  13. Clairvoyance said on August 31, 2020 at 11:56 am

    Brilliant application and great find, Martin!

    I wanted such application for years now and I am happy that you found such. This application fixes one huge annoyance for me. I was always anxious when clicking buttons and things that sounded “too good to be true” in desktop applications because it always opened my browser (which I don’t keep all the time like some people).

    I had to remedy this problem before I read this by creating a firefox with most strict privacy settings (like ghack’s user.js but stricter) and anything that opens it, I then have to decide where it should open. All this of course is clumsy. I always hated that when I click on something that I hope to be in Desktop, a browser is opened right away. I cannot even cancel it on time either. I always hate it when this happens without my control. Imagine this happening on a low end machine which has only 4 GBs ram and you run some other memory intensive software i.e – IDE, Photoshop, Video Editor.

    Now with BrokenURL, I am capable of utilizing different browsers for their different profiles for different domains of work that I want to do. That way I know all things related to one domain are in one browser and BrokenURL just makes this seamless.

    Thank you very much, Martin, for finding this application! Great job to the developers for creating it! This is now a must have for me in my Software ToolKit.

  14. Tom Hawack said on August 31, 2020 at 11:07 am

    Tested, adopted. BrokenURL not only performs exactly as announced and described on its homepage, but moreover brings the solution to the problem of extensions not being all *immediately* available at the browser’s startup, at least as far as Firefox is concerned (even uBlockOrigin needs a minimum delay to operate correctly). And of course applications opening the user’s default browser on install and/or removal as a guest making himself at home when hardly invited are reminded to stand correctly.

    BrokenURL is neat. The install process requires what is already mentioned on its developer’s homepage which is that ‘Setting the BrokenURL as default browser is required to make it work.’ : user is invited to agree via Windows association page and may at any time disable or re-enable BrokenURL as being the default browser, of course required in order to perform as the ‘proxy’ it aims to be.

    Brilliant. Nice find, Martin.

  15. Jeff said on August 31, 2020 at 10:38 am

    This is fantastic. I wanted a program like this since forever since many app installers or uninstallers or the apps themselves open the browser without my permission to spam me with their website, and all my dozens of tabs begin to load. Thank you Martin for covering this gem of an app

  16. ATC said on August 31, 2020 at 8:56 am


    If a program launches IE to show web content and that is not your default browser, that’s the fault of the app. It is very easy to determine what the user’s default browser is and pass the URL to it instead.

    This freeware app will break a lot of applications that show users data outside the app (think reports, documents, etc.)

  17. Allwynd said on August 31, 2020 at 8:44 am

    I’m pretty certain this program is a solution to a problem that only began existing since Windows 10.

    For example when I install, the installer shows me slides of related (by genre) games that I can click and it will load me the store page so I can check them out. In Windows 7, when I clicked these slides, it opened my default browser, Chrome or whatever. In Windows 10, when I click them, it opens Internet Explorer despite my default browser being something else.

    Bottom line is, Windows 10 has ruined so many things that the necessity for software like this came into existence and I find this pretty stupid. How much dumber can Windows 10 get? On top of being Unstable, Ugly, Hard to Customize and Hard to not Update, you have to use use these stupid small programs that fix issues that didn’t exist in the previous versions of Windows.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid Microsoft…

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