Q. How Do I Disable Window 10's Built-In Apps?

Q. How Do I Disable Window 10's Built-In Apps?

Q. Is there any way to disable some of Windows 10’s built-in programs? I want to avoid OneDrive, Edge, Outlook, and File Explorer. However, other programs call them up — and I then get errors because [OneDrive, Edge, Outlook or File Explorer] have not been set up or initialized. How do I disable these programs and avoid the errors?


Yes, you can completely deactivate some of Win10’s built-in apps. And those that can’t be fully deactivated can usually be rendered mostly inert, so you’ll hardly ever see them.

I’ll work through the specific apps you asked about — OneDrive, Edge, Outlook, and File Manager — in a moment. Because they’re tightly integrated with the OS, they require special handling.

But to cover the bases, I’ll first point out that a simple file-association fix might be all that’s needed to control launching/activation for many applications. And it’s so simple, it’s always worth a try.

For example, to set the default apps that open JPG files, DOCX files, HTML files — or any other file type — use Win10’s file-association settings. Here’s how:

  • Step 1. If you don’t already have the app you want to use on your PC, install it now.
  • Step 2. In File Manager, navigate to any example of the type of file you want that app to open. E.g., if you’ve installed a third-party photo-editing app, you could navigate to any JPG file.
  • Step 3. Right click the file and select the Open with option; a list of apps will appear. Note, however, that this list is for one-time use — it does not permanently change the Open with action.
  • Step 4. To make a permanent change, scroll down to and select Choose another app from the bottom of theOpen with list. The How do you want to open this file? prompt will open, showing an expanded list of available apps. If the app you want to use is displayed, select it; if your preferred app isn’t displayed, scroll down to and click More apps. Select your app, if it appears. If the app you want still isn’t displayed, scroll down again and click Look for another app on this PC, then navigate to and select the executable (usually an EXEfile) for the app you want.
  • Step 5. To make your selection “stick” (you can always go back and change it later), check the Always use this app to open … box at the bottom of the How do you want to open this file? prompt.


    Open with

    Figure 1. The right-click Open with … menus give you ways to associate any app with any file type, as a one-time event or semi-permanently.

You can achieve similar effect via the Win10 Settings menu, as described in the Microsoft support article, “Change default programs in Windows 10.”

Changing deeply-integrated apps: Applications such as OneDrive aren’t dependent on file types. OneDrive is also a core part of Windows 10, so it can’t be uninstalled. But it can be quite thoroughly deactivated, so it stops syncing with the cloud, doesn’t connect with other apps, and doesn’t display an icon in the navigation pane in File Explorer.

For a how-to, see the MS Support article, “Turn off or uninstall OneDrive.” (Note: The “uninstall” in the title is misleading; the method described actually lets you deactivate OneDrive by editing Local Group Policy settings. I assume the “uninstall” is in the title to help search engines find the appropriate help page.)

The Edge browser is also a core part of Win10; it can’t (and shouldn’t) be uninstalled in the normal sense. It can, however, be largely neutered in two steps.

First, change Win10’s default browser. See “How to set your default browser in Windows 10 in just five steps.”

Next, control Edge’s local-page/local-file actions by changing the Open with … settings for HTM, HTML, and other web-related file types, using the file-association settings steps described above.

If Edge still bothers you, the only further option I know of is a nasty, brute-force hack. You take security-permission ownership of the Edge executables — typically MicrosoftEdge.exe and MicrosoftCP.exe, both inC:\Windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe.

Rename them so they can’t run. (E.g., rename MicrosoftEdge.exe to MicrosoftEdge.neutered.) This method is explained in “How to disable or uninstall Microsoft Edge in Windows 10.”

But note: Read the whole article; some of the early answers no longer work in newer versions of Win10.

Controlling Outlook depends, in part, on which version of Outlook you’re running and how deeply you want to deactivate it. You can gain basic control by changing the Open with … file associations for your mail files or apps (again, see the above section on file associations).

You also can select or change your mail app via Win10’s Settings/System/Default Apps/Choose a default/Choose an app/ (Figure 2). John said he used Chrome; he could select Chrome and use Gmail as his mail app.

Choose default apps

Figure 2. The Choose default apps setting lets you set system-wide preferences for several common types of files, such as mail, maps, music, etc.

For detailed information on uninstalling/removing/controlling a specific version of Outlook, use a version-specific search such as “disable remove Outlook 2016 win10.” That phrase, for example, turns up “Uninstall only Outlook 2016.”

The last app — File Explorer — is really a different animal. It’s the front end to the way Windows itself stores and retrieves files. Turning off, disabling, or uninstalling File Explorer would cripple the entire system. But you’re free to ignore it and use an alternate, third-party front end such as Q-Dir to view and manipulate your files in a format you prefer.

One way or another — using some combination of the above techniques — you can usually get Win10 to let you use the apps you want and in the way you want.


Editor's note: We feature an abridged Q&A from Fred Langa's LANGALIST, a column available exclusively to paid subscribers of the Windows Secrets newsletter,. What you see here is just a small sampling of what Langa's writing for the newsletter — go here for more information on how to subscribe.

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