Bye-bye, Chrome: 10 steps to help you switch to Microsoft’s new Edge browser

For years, Microsoft has made the browsers that choosy web users loved to hate. First there was Internet Explorer, with an endless supply of security and compatibility issues. Then there was the original version of Microsoft Edge, which shipped with early releases of Windows 10. It was significantly better than Internet Explorer (granted, that’s a pretty low bar), but there were just enough problems to make it unacceptable for everyday usage. That’s why Google’s Chrome browser is hands-down the most popular software on the web.

But all that changed with the release of the new Microsoft Edge (same name, new logo), which is now widely available on every major desktop and mobile platform. Because it’s built on the same open source Chromium Project code base that Google uses for Chrome, it’s almost a perfect clone of Chrome for things that matter, like rendering web pages and working with third-party code.

It’s … really good.

In fact, you might find the new Edge superior to Chrome in some respects. Google’s business model is based on knowing everything you do on the web, whereas Microsoft’s business model is based on paid services like Office 365. As a result, the new Edge is considerably more privacy focused than Chrome. And it has at least one killer feature that anyone who uses the web for research will appreciate.

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If you’re interested in switching, your first step is to install the new Edge from its official download site. Then follow these 10 steps to get things set up right from the start.

1. Choose an Edge release channel

If you install the latest version of Microsoft Edge, you get the public release version, which gets updated (and installed automatically) every six weeks or so. But if you’d prefer to get an advance look at new features, consider installing one of the three Insider channels as well. The Beta channel skips ahead one version, which the Dev and Canary channels give you new builds every week or every day, respectively.

You can install any of these channels side by side with other builds and switch between them any time. If you’re signed in with the same account and you’ve set up syncing, your history and saved settings will be the same in each instance. 

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You can run one or more Edge Insider builds alongside the publicly released version. 

2. Set up profiles

The new Edge allows you to set up different profiles, typically for Personal and Work browsing. The advantage, of course, is that you don’t accidentally mix up your work and personal browsing histories, email, and services. If you try to access work-related site from your personal profile, Edge will offer to switch automatically. (You can disable this feature if you want.)

You can also do what I’ve done here and set up an anonymous profile that doesn’t sign in to any online account. Go to edge://settings/clearBrowsingDataOnClose and set this profile to automatically delete your browsing history, cookies, and other details every time you close that window. Each profile opens in a separate window, and you can see by the profile avatar in the upper right corner which profile you’re currently using. 

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3. Set up sync

If you’re signed in with a Microsoft account or an Azure AD work account, Edge is capable of syncing your settings across every device where you’re signed in using that account. That includes not just Windows PCs but also Macs, iPhones and iPads, and Android devices.

Go to edge://settings/profiles/sync to turn sync on or off and adjust what gets synced. Because I use a third-party password manager, I always turn off the Passwords and Addresses And More switches here.

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4. Turn on Tracking Prevention

For most everyday browsing tasks, Chrome and the new Edge are pretty similar. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that they share the Chromium code base. But the Tracking Prevention page (shown here) is something you absolutely won’t find in Chrome. (For an explanation of why Google doesn’t have a similar feature, see “Edge vs. Chrome: Microsoft’s Tracking Prevention hits Google the hardest.”).

This feature is on by default and set to the Balanced level. With that setting on, you’ll still see a fair number of ads, but most third-party tracking is blocked. Turning the setting up to Strict effectively turns it into an ad-blocking tool but can break some web functionality and will subject you to lots of “please disable your ad blocker” messages. You can see which trackers have been blocked and turn this feature on or off for an individual website by clicking the padlock button and using the controls at the bottom of the information pane for that page.

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5. Add extensions

If you’ve used Chrome for any length of time, you probably have a collection of browser extensions you can’t live without. The more popular ones (especially for things like password managers and adblockers) are available from the Microsoft Edge Add-ons page. But if you can’t find one of your must-have extensions there, just install it from the Chrome Web Store.

You’ll need to flip a switch on the bottom of the edge://extensions page to allow extensions from other stores. And you don’t need to Google for the Chrome Web Store, either. There’s a link at the bottom of the page, just to the right of that switch. 

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6. Get your passwords under control

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: You need a password manager. It’s the only way to maintain unique, hard-to-guess credentials for every secure website and online service you use.

The built-in password fill/sync feature in the new Edge is good enough for undemanding sorts, but I recommend using a third-party password manager instead. (For a discussion of the reasons, see “Password managers: Is it OK to use your browser’s built-in password management tools?”) And if you need a recommendation, see our guide to the best password managers for business.)

Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll need to make a stop here, at edge://settings/passwords. If you’ve installed a third-party tool, turn off the settings there so you don’t accidentally save passwords in the wrong place.

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7. Customize the New Tab page

When you set up a new profile for the first time, you’re prompted to choose a new tab style. If you’re signed in with a Microsoft account or a local account, you get options that include a Bing search box, Microsoft news headlines, and a fresh background image daily.

If you’re using an Azure AD profile associated with a Microsoft 365/Office 365 business subscription, you get a few additional options that include links to online apps and documents you’ve worked with recently. In either case, you can change the layout any time by opening a new tab and clicking the gear icon in the upper right corner.

For those who find none of these options appealing, you’ll need a browser extension that can take over the New Tab page.  

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8. Pin your favorite sites as apps

When is a website more than website? When it’s also a Progressive Web App, which uses a web technology called Service Workers to enable resource caching (for offline usage) and push notifications. Sites that are built to be PWAs can be installed as apps. Just visit the page you want to install and then click the Settings menu > Apps > Install This Site As An App.

It works great for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as for many news sites and financial institutions. Each app runs its own window, with its own title bar and taskbar button (or Dock icon, if you’re using Edge on a Mac), and behaves as if it were a separate app instead of being lost in your browser tabs.

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9. Adjust your privacy settings

You already took care of third parties trying to stalk you on the web when you adjusted Tracking Prevention settings earlier. Now it’s time to decide how much information you want Microsoft to use. You’ll find these options under edge://settings/privacy.

The first two options control how much diagnostic data you allow Microsoft to have about your use of the browser. (On PCs running Windows 10, these settings are controlled by Windows. Use the link to the Windows Settings page to change those switches. Then decide how you want to set the Personalize Your Web Experience option. Turn it off to tell Microsoft not to use your history to personalize ads, search, and news headlines. 

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10. Organize your research into Collections

Collections might be the single most underrated feature in the new Edge. A Collection is superficially similar to a folder full of Favorites/bookmarks, but it does a few tricks that go far beyond basic hyperlinks, as this example shows.

Click the Collections button on the Edge toolbar, create your first collection, and then give it a name. You can add your own notes to the collection and then save pages to the collection using the link at the top of the pane. You can also drag a block of text, or a product listing, or an image into the pane and rearrange their order by dragging and dropping. And when you’re done collecting stuff, use the menu options at the top of the pane to export it to Word, Excel, or OneNote, or copy the entire contents for use in another app.

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