Change Your Default Mail Client in OS X

March 30, 2009

in e-mail,Macintosh

by Dee-Ann LeBlanc

There’s nothing wrong with using the default email program in OS X: Apple Mail. However, sometimes you want to use something different, like Thunderbird or Entourage.

One frustrating aspect of OS X is that there is no simple, central way to change your default mail client. In order to change the default, you have to actually start by launching Apple Mail. This program won’t fully launch until you configure it, so if you haven’t used it before, you’ll need to enter dummy information and keep clicking “Next” until you are able to access the Mail menu and select Preferences.

Once you’ve done so, choose the General tab to access the general settings.

The Preferences dialog box with the General tab selected, and Thunderbird chosen as the default mail client.

The Preferences dialog box with the General tab selected, and Thunderbird chosen as the default mail client.

In this dialog box, go to the “Default email reader” dropdown list box and select the program you want to use. If you’re using a mail or other client to read RSS feeds, it doesn’t hurt to click the RSS tab and set the “Default RSS Reader” as well.

Close the window, close Mail, and most of the time your preferred application should come up correctly. That said, some of your applications won’t honor this setting. iCal, for example, will open Apple Mail if you set it to email you an event reminder. Some users can turn to ZappTek’s little iCal modifiers.

You may run into other applications with similar issues. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to delete the Mail application from your system. There are additional tools that offer help with these issues, though they may not be able to fully resolve them. Try MisFox, RCDefaultApp, or More Internet.

Note that some people run into a similar issue with Safari opening every time they click a URL. If you use a different Web browser and want to set that as your default, open Safari, choose the Safari menu, and then Preferences. In the General tab, select the “Default web browser” you want, and then close the dialog box and Safari.

Dee-Ann LeBlanc ( has been a computer geek since childhood and a computer writer for the last 15 years. Her home is run by Macs, Linux boxes, and a trio of dogs.