For years, Microsoft has made browsers that web users like to hate. First, there was Internet Explorer with endless security and compatibility issues. Then there was the original version of Microsoft Edge, which came with previous releases of Windows 10. It was significantly better than Internet Explorer (granted, it’s a pretty low bar), but there were only enough issues to make it unacceptable for everyday use. That’s why Google Chrome is the most popular software on the web.
But everything has changed with the release of the new Microsoft Edge (same name, new logo), which is now widely available on all major desktop and mobile platforms. Because it̵7;s built on the same open source Chromium Project source code that Google uses for Chrome, it’s an almost perfect clone of Chrome for things that matter, like rendering web pages and working with third-party code.
That’s really good.
In fact, you might find the new Edge better than Chrome in some ways. Google’s business model is based on knowing everything you do on the web, while Microsoft’s business model is based on paid services like Office 365. As a result, the new Edge is much more privacy-friendly than Chrome. And it has at least one murderous feature that will be appreciated by anyone who uses the web for research.
If you are interested in switching, the first step is to install the new Edge from its official download site. Then follow these 10 steps to set things up right from the start.
1. Select the Edge release channel
If you install the latest version of Microsoft Edge, you get a public version that updates (and automatically installs) every six weeks. However, if you’d like to learn about new features in advance, consider installing one of three insider channels. The Beta channel skips one version, which gives you new versions every week or every day thanks to the Dev and Canary channels.
You can install any of these channels side by side with other assemblies and switch between them at any time. If you’re signed in with the same account and set up sync, your history and saved settings will be the same in each instance.
2. Set up profiles
The new edge allows you to set different profiles, usually for personal and work browsing. The advantage is that you don’t accidentally mix your work history and personal browsing, email and services. If you try to access work pages from your personal profile, Edge will offer automatic switching. (You can disable this feature.)
You can also do what I have done here and set up an anonymous profile that will not log in to any online account. Go to the margin: // settings / clearBrowsingDataOnClose and set this profile to automatically clear your browsing history, cookies, and other details each time you close this window. Each profile opens in a separate window, and according to the profile avatar in the upper right corner, you’ll see which profile you’re currently using.
3. Set up synchronization
If you’re signed in with a Microsoft or Azure AD work account, Edge can sync your settings on all the devices you’re signed in with with that account. This includes not only Windows computers, but also Macs, iPhones and iPads, and Android devices.
Scroll to the edge: // settings / profiles / sync to turn sync on or off and adjust what syncs. Because I use a third-party password manager, I always turn off password and address switches and more here.
4. Turn on tracking prevention
For most everyday browsing tasks, Chrome and the new border are quite similar. This should come as no surprise, as they share the Chromium code base. However, the Tracking Prevention page (shown here) is completely unavailable in Chrome. (For an explanation of why Google doesn’t have a similar feature, see “The Edge Against Chrome: Preventing Microsoft’s Tracking from Being Affected by Google.”)
This feature is turned on by default and set to a balanced level. If this setting is turned on, you’ll still see a fair number of ads, but most third-party tracking is blocked. If you set the Strict setting to effective, it will become an ad blocker, but it can disrupt some web features and expose you to many “disable ad blocking” messages. Click the lock button and use the controls at the bottom of the information bar for that page to see which trackers have been blocked and to turn this feature on or off for that webpage.
5. Add extensions
If you’ve been using Chrome for a long time, you probably have a collection of browser extensions that you can’t live without. The most popular of these (especially for things like password managers and adblockers) are available on the Microsoft Edge Add-ons page. However, if you can’t find one of the required extensions, install it from the Chrome Web Store.
To enable extensions from other stores, you must flip the switch at the bottom of the edge: // extensions page. And you don’t need Google for the Chrome Web Store. At the bottom of the page is a link to the right of the radio button.
6. Get your passwords under control
I’ve said it before, but it says again: You need a password manager. It’s the only way to maintain unique and difficult-to-predict data for all the secure websites and online services you use.
The new Edge’s built-in password padding and synchronization feature is pretty good for light types, but I recommend using a third-party password manager instead. (For a discussion of the reasons, see “Password Managers: Is it okay to use your browser’s built-in password management tools?”) And if you need a recommendation, check out our guide to the best business password managers.)
No matter which option you choose, you need to stop here, at the edge: // settings / passwords. If you have installed a third-party tool, turn off settings so that you do not accidentally store passwords in the wrong place.
7. Customize the New Tab page
The first time you set up a new profile, you are prompted to select a new card style. If you’re signed in with a Microsoft or local account, you’ll get options that include a Bing search box, Microsoft news headlines, and a fresh background image every day.
If you’re using an Azure AD profile associated with a Microsoft 365 / Office 365 corporate subscription, you’ll get a few more options, including links to online applications and documents you’ve worked with recently. In either case, you can change the layout at any time by opening a new tab and clicking on the gear icon in the top right corner.
For those who don’t find any of these options attractive, you’ll need a browser extension that can download the New Tab page.
8. Pin your favorite sites as apps
When is the web more than the web? When it is also a progressive web application that uses a web technology called Service Workers to enable caching (for offline use) and to send notifications. Websites created as PWA can be installed as applications. Just visit the page you want to install, then click Settings> Applications> Install this site as an application.
It works great for Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, as well as for many news sites and financial institutions. Each application launches its own window with its own title bar and button (or dock icon if you’re using Edge on a Mac) and behaves as if it were a standalone application instead of getting lost on your browser tabs.
9. Adjust your privacy settings
When you previously edited your tracking prevention settings, you took care of third parties trying to track you on the web. Now is the time to decide how much information Microsoft should use. You can find these options under: // settings / privacy.
The first two options determine how much diagnostic data you allow Microsoft to have information about your browser usage. (On computers running Windows 10, these settings are controlled by Windows. You can change these switches by following the link to the Windows Settings page. Then decide how you want to set the Customize your Web experience option. Disable this feature to tell Microsoft not to use your history to customize ads, searches, and news headlines.
10. Organize your collection research
Collections may be the single most underrated feature of the new edge. The collection is superficially similar to a folder full of favorites / bookmarks, but shows a few tricks that go far beyond basic hyperlinks, as this example shows.
Click the Collections button on the Edge toolbar, create the first collection, and name it. You can add your own notes to the collection and then save the pages to the collection using the link at the top of the whiteboard. You can also drag a block of text or a product listing or image to the panel and change their order by dragging. Once you’re done collecting items, use the menu options at the top of the panel to export them to Word, Excel, or OneNote, or copy all content for use in another application.