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Multiple browser windows open when you click on a mailto: link

Created: June 06, 2004
Revised : Sept 17, 2007
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When you click on a mailto: URL in Internet Explorer, multiple instances of Internet Explorer opens (more than 60 windows) with the error Action Cancelled and the mail client is not invoked. You may also see the following error:

Could not perform this operation because the default mail client is not properly installed


The problem happens due to one of these reasons:

  1. Mailto handler is not correctly set.
  2. Missing URL Protocol registry value.
  3. Incorrect registry permissions for the mailto key.


Set the default E-mail client

Instructions for Windows XP:

  • Click Start, Run and type control inetcpl.cpl
  • Select the Programs tab
  • From the E-mail dropdown list, choose another mail client and click Apply
  • Redo the procedure and set your preferred email client again

Instructions for Windows Vista:

  • Click Start, select Default Programs
  • Click Set program access and computer defaults
  • Click Custom, and select your mail client (for example, Windows Mail)
  • Click OK

Then, follow these steps:

  • Click Set your default programs
  • Select your mail client from the list
  • Click Set this program as default
  • Click OK

If the above does not help, follow these steps:

Re-create the missing string value

  • Click Start, Run and type Regedit.exe
  • Navigate to the following branch:


  • From the Edit menu, select New, and then click String Value.
  • Type URL Protocol as the name of the new String Value
  • Exit the Registry Editor

Unable to access the "mailto" branch?

Note: The following steps are written for Windows XP systems, but the steps can be adapted for Windows Vista.

If you receive an error when accessing the "mailto" registry key, then it must be due to incorrect Permissions. Follow these steps to fix the Permissions for that key and subkeys:

Taking ownership of the mailto key and sub-keys

  • Start Regedit.exe and navigate to the following branch:


  • On the Edit menu, click Permissions
  • Click Advanced, and then click the Owner tab
  • Under Change owner to, click the new owner (your user account)
  • Place a checkmark near Replace owner on subcontainers and objects
  • Click OK

Setting the Permissions for the mailto key

Make sure that the users have Read access to the above registry key. Administrators and the SYSTEM group should have Full Control over the above key, and Users should have Read access.

  • Start Regedit.exe and navigate to the following branch:


  • On the Edit menu, click Permissions
  • Configure the permissions as mentioned in the table below:
Object Permissions
Creator Owner Full Control
Administrators Full Control
Users Read
System Full Control
  • If an object name is missing, click the Add button to add an user or group.
  • Click the Advanced button
  • Select the Replace permission entries on all child objects with entries shown here that apply to child objects checkbox.
  • Deselect the Inherit from parent the permission entries that apply to child objects. Include these with entries explicitly defined here checkbox.
  • Click Apply, and then click Yes when you are prompted to continue.
  • Click OK, and then click OK again.
  • Exit the Registry editor.

For more information on configuring registry permissions, read the following article:

How To Use the Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 Registry Editor Features

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