Fix app problems stemming from Firefox as default browser

Some people who have Firefox installed as their default browser report problems with applications that launch clicked links in a browser. The likely culprit seems to be the Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), a message-passing system. Here's a step-by-step process to stop Firefox from using DDE to open URLs.

I use Internet Explorer 7(IE7) and Firefox side-by-side on the same computer, with Firefox installed as the default browser. Nothing against IE7; I'm just more accustomed to working with Firefox than Internet Explorer.

But having Firefox as the default browser doesn't mean every application will play nicely with it. Many people have reported that Firefox sometimes incorrectly registers itself as a handler for certain protocols. This creates problems with some applications that launch clicked links in a browser; for instance, clicking a link in an email message might produce a "General Failure" warning.

Why does this happen? The likely culprit seems to be Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), a message-passing system used to supply information from one program to another. When launching a URL through Firefox, Dynamic Data Exchange can be used to pass the URL. But often it's just as easy to pass it as a command-line parameter, which incurs less overhead.

Unfortunately, when Firefox registers itself as the default URL handler, it does so with Dynamic Data Exchange turned on. This process sometimes causes the problems described earlier.

The most obvious way to fix the problem is to stop Firefox from using Dynamic Data Exchange to open URLs. To do this:

  1. Open Explorer.
  2. Go to Tools | Options | File Types and scroll to URL:HyperText Transfer Protocol.
  3. Edit it, then edit the default action (open), and clear the DDE Message: text box.
  4. Click OK to close each window.

JohnHaller.com offers a Registry fix that accomplishes the same thing, although you should apply it (or the above change) only after Firefox has been registered as the default browser. You might have to re-apply the fix each time Firefox is updated.

Note: This problem does not seem to happen in Microsoft Windows Vista, but I'll keep an eye open, just in case.

About the author:
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in April 2007

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