Why Can’t I Open Email Links in Gmail?

Somedays, I want to scream when things that worked are broken. This happened when I needed to contact a vendor by email. This is a simple task where you click an email link, and it opens in your default email application. Instead of getting Gmail to open up in Chrome, I was staring at the Microsoft Store email app. My Chrome mailto link was not working.

What broke is something called the mailto protocol. This is the protocol handler you see when you hover over support, contact, or other email hyperlinks. You’ll see something like mailto: and an email address. In my case, the format was correct, so the problem was something else.

Since I was on a Microsoft Windows PC, I started with my Windows Settings, made changes to my email application, and set new preferences. That didn’t work, which meant I had to find another fix. Actually, it was a progression of fixes, so I’ve included them in order. However, you can hop to any of them.

Solution 1 – Set the Protocol Handlers

This is a good starting point, especially if you don’t recall ever having your email links open in Gmail.

How to set the mailto: protocol to Gmail

  1. Open up Google Chrome.
  2. Open Gmail in one of the tabs.
  3. Look at the right side of the address bar for the Protocol Handler icon. They look like 2 intersecting diamonds.
Chrome protocol handler icon in address bar.
Protocol handler in the Chrome address bar
  1. Click the handler icon.

You should get a small dialog box that asks you to Allow mail.google.com to open all email links?
Protocol handler radio buttons.Pin

  1. Choose the Allow radio button.
  2. Click Done.
  3. Test to make sure an email link works. You can use this link. somebody@example.com.

Solution 2: No Protocol Handler Shows in Address Bar

Yes, this happened to me. All the suggestions I read said I should see that funky protocol icon in my address bar. Well, I didn’t.

How to check your protocol handlers

  1. Open Google Chrome.
  2. In the address bar type chrome://settings/handlers
  3. Check to see if the Do not allow any site to handle protocols toggle is turned off.
Toggle to turn off handlers.Pin
Adjusting Protocol Handler switch
  1. If the toggle is off, slide it to the right.
  2. In the address bar, type https://mail.google.com.
  3. Gmail will open, and you should see the protocol handler icon.
  4. Click the protocol handler icon.
  5. Select the Allow radio button.
  6. Click Done.
  7. Test to make sure an email link works. You can try clicking this test link – somebody@example.com.

Solution 3: Irish Charm Solution

If you’re still with me, you’ve probably guessed solutions 1 & 2 didn’t work for me. However, I found a solution from Paul Irish on the Google Developers site.

This is a bit geeky, but nothing like changing your Windows Registry. It does require you to open up Google Chrome Dev Tools. These tools are built into the Chrome browser.

How to use Chrome Dev Tools Console to set Protocol

  1. Open up Google Chrome.
  2. Open your Gmail tab.
  3. Press Ctrl + Shift + J.

The Developer Console should open either at the right of your screen or the bottom. Chances are, your screen will look a bit different than mine. Don’t worry about the warnings.

Chrome dev tools console panel with messages.Pin
Chrome Developer Tools Console
  1. Look for the > sign at the bottom.
  2. Copy the code snippet below.
navigator.registerProtocolHandler("mailto",
                                  "https://mail.google.com/mail/?extsrc=mailto&url=%s",
                                  "Gmail");
  1. Paste this code right after the > sign.
  2. Press Enter.

You should see the word undefined at the bottom of your browser console, and at the top of your screen, you should see a box referencing mail.google.com.

Dev tools responds with "undefined"Pin
Look for “undefined” reference and top dialog.
  1. Click Allow.
  2. Test to make sure an email link works. You can try clicking this test link – somebody@example.com.

Solution 4 – Remove Handler and Flip the Switch

Yes, believe it or not, Solution 3 only got me partway. After testing the email link, it still didn’t work. I was staring at the Windows mail app….again. Sometimes you need to delete and try again.

  1. From your Gmail tab, type chrome://settings/handlers in the address bar.
Turn off handlers and delete mail.Pin
Turn off handlers and remove the existing one.
  1. Click the 3 vertical dots to the right of mail.google.com.
  2. Select Remove.
  3. Flip the Allow sites to ask to become default handlers switch Off and then back On.
    You should now see the protocol icon in the address bar.
  4. Click the handler icon.
  5. You should get a small dialog box that asks you to Allow mail.google.com to open all email links?
Protocol handler radio buttons.Pin
  1. Choose the Allow radio button.
  2. Click Done
  3. Test to make sure an email link works. You can use this link. somebody@example.com

Hopefully, one of these solutions worked for you and you can open your mailto links in Gmail again. If it didn’t, you might try searching for a Chrome extension that provides this functionality. I’m not a fan of adding these as each one takes memory and some extensions can be stubborn to remove.