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Family computer support question: I have a relative who's a hotmail user. I'd like to setup his machine (IE 8 Vista) so that when he clicks on a mailto URL it opens a new page/tab for composing mail in the normal hotmail mail composing window. Introducing a new progam like Windows Mail is way too complicated. It needs to be dead simple. Do I need "Live Mail" to do this? Or is there something even simpler than that?

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Unable to understand why you wrote about family/relative. Its right or wrong, you could have asked it directly. Hotmail is feature-rich and faster than Gmail. So, Hotmail is no longer a shame.. – Evil Angel Mar 4 '12 at 12:51
@Sachin it's just his reasoning - a lot of grandparents can't handle change to their computer well – Simon Sheehan Mar 4 '12 at 13:39
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Officially Windows does no longer support "mailto webmail", but that doesn't mean it cannot be done.

i'm using Gmail as my default client in Windows 7 with IE8, here is what i did:

download and import this registry file (credit to limneos at, which is written with Yahoo! Mail in mind.

go to Default Programs > Set your default programs > Internet Explorer > Choose defaults for this program, under Protocols MAILTO is now available, check the box and Save.

right now, all mailto links will open Internet Explorer with Yahoo! Mail/Compose, to change this, open the registry editor and navigate to


double click the default value, the following part (url) of the value data has to be replaced:

for Gmail, i'm using this URL instead:

for Hotmail use this URL:

voilá, Hotmail as default email client in Windows.

p.s.: i have tested Hotmail as default email client in only in Windows 7 & IE8, but this workaround should work for Vista just as well. i don't use Firefox, but i'm pretty sure this can be done with FF as well if you change the value data of the default key accordingly (FF may require %s instead of %1 at the end):

C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe

of course you will have to associate FF with the MAILTO protocol.

note: as usual, you should backup the registry before making changes.

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Sigh, this sounded promising, but didn't work for me on Vista. There's a dialog that comes up asking if it's ok to launch IE not in "protected mode". Clicking on "Allow" seems to do nothing. – Mark Zeren Dec 30 '09 at 23:40
hmm ... it works grand for me in XP and Windows 7 (i'm not using protected mode but Sandboxie), unfortunately i don't have the option to check it with Vista. can you try with Firefox as this browser doesn't use Protected Mode? – Molly7244 Dec 31 '09 at 0:01
Update: Google provide a list of all current mailto URLs:… – mythofechelon Feb 8 '13 at 0:17

In Windows XP/IE8, navigate to Tools/Internet Options... | Programs Then select "Windows Live Mail" from the dropdown box next to Email.

I have not tried this in Windows 7 or Vista.

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