I never thought I’d say this, but Microsoft’s web browser is pretty good—Edge Chromium, that is. If you’re jumping from the Google browser everyone uses, Edge Chromium should feel pretty familiar. More importantly, it’s not as much of a resource hog, and it comes with all sorts of fun, experimental features you can play with, just like Chrome. My favourite, so far, is a new setting that allows the browser to block potentially problematic downloads.
According to a program manager at Microsoft, Edge Chromium’s implementation of threat protection, formerly an enterprise-only feature in Windows Defender, is actually better than what you’d find in Google Chrome:
Base SmartScreen and SafeBrowsing both block malware. The feature shown here goes further by optionally blocking downloads that contain potentially unwanted (but not technically malware) code– think a utility app that also bundles in a crypto miner or notification spammer.
— Eric Lawrence ???? (@ericlaw) January 31, 2020
As of when we wrote this article, the new feature couldn’t be found in the stable version of Microsoft Edge. However, jumping over to the beta release to check it out is easy. Download and install an Edge preview build from Microsoft’s site—yes, you can have it and the stable version of Microsoft Edge on your system at the same time (which is great if you’re even the slightest bit fearful about transferring your entire browsing experience over to a beta build of the browser).
From there, pull up Edge’s settings by clicking on the triple-dot icon in the upper-right corner and clicking on Settings (or just click on this shortcut). Navigate to the “Privacy and services” section, and then scroll down to the “Services” section. You should see a new option that’s disabled by default: “Block potentially unwanted apps.” Turn that on.
I don’t have a great example of what a blocked download looks like in practice, since I don’t download shitty toolbars, but I’m assuming there’s some message or alert notifying you that your browser isn’t going to allow whatever adware you were trying to get onto your system. While Chromium Edge isn’t foolproof—I wouldn’t trust it to block everything that could create annoyances and eat up system resources on your PC—there’s nothing to be lost by enabling the app-blocking feature. If that helps you avoid one more crappy application on your PC, it was worth the extra minute of your time.