Ready or not, you’re getting IE 8 or 9

Susan bradley By Susan Bradley

Microsoft wants to strong-arm us into abandoning IE 6 and embracing its latest browsers.

Starting Jan. 17, Microsoft began pushing out IE 8 and IE 9 to all customers through Windows Update.

It began in Brazil and Australia. As noted in Microsoft’s Dec. 15, 2011, Exploring IE blog, the company’s plan is a slow rollout of IE Versions 8 and 9 to all Windows XP, Vista, and Win7 users who have automatic Windows Updates turned on.

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IE 9 has been offered to users as an optional update (prechecking the update box), but this is the first time a new version of IE has been set to automatically install. If you previously said no to IE 9 on Vista or Windows 7 (or IE 8 on Windows XP), Microsoft will continue to respect your wishes — neither of those browsers will automatically download to your machine.

Fixing what Microsoft did to your IE settings

Although I like Internet Explorer 9’s new features, I’m not thrilled with its default interface — a sort of Google Chrome clone. So the first thing I did after installing IE 9 was re-enable all the toolbars, menus, and favorites I used to see in the previous versions. I also chose the option to show tabs on a separate row.

If you, too, prefer the classic IE look, follow these steps: Right-click the upper edge of IE9. A hovering, popup menu should appear, as shown in Figure 1. Click those items you’ve used in the past and would like to see again. As you’ll see in Figure 2, I checked Menu bar, Favorites bar, Command bar, Status bar, and Show tabs on separate row.

IE9 without options
Figure 1. IE 9 in its bare-bones, default look, sans menu bars. Right-click the title bar at the top of the window to bring up your display options.

IE 9 with options
Figure 2. IE 9 with the full set of menu bars checked.

I am fond of saying that if I wanted to run Google Chrome rather than IE, I would — and I do. But when I’m using Internet Explorer, I want it to look as I expect it to. (I tend to use Chrome at home and IE at work — and especially when using apps that demand IE’s ActiveX support.

Don’t forget the security updates for IE

A more important reason to use the latest version of IE is malware protection. PCs are more secure when all installed browsers are up to date. And that includes regular patching. This past December’s IE 9 update KB 2618444, in particular, includes both security and functionality enhancements.

Some IE 9 users have had trouble downloading PDFs from sites using https (SSL) security. Here’s how to fix it. Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of an IE window, select Internet Options, click the Advanced tab, and clear the Do not save encrypted pages to disk check box in the Security group. (See Figure 3.) Click OK to finish. You’ll find more on this fix in MS Help and Support article 2549423.

Figure 3. Adjusting IE 9 when PDFs fail to download

Hotfixes for IE 9 and compatibility issues

Under specific circumstances, you’ll need hotfixes for IE 9. For example, if Windows Fax and Scan fails after installing IE 9, MS Help and Support article 2647169 provides a link to the fix. (Note that you cannot directly download a hotfix. You have to request one by e-mail.)

If you have critical accessibility add-ons to help you view PC screens, check their compatibility with IE 9. As noted in the SSB BART Group blog on IE 9’s compatibility with assistive technology, various software vendors’ tools need updating to work properly. You can also try toggling hardware-based graphics and text-rendering within IE 9 by using the Fix its in MS Help and Support article 25285233.

If, after all of that updating, you still can’t stand IE 9, you can use the Fix it in article 2579295 to uninstall the browser.

But you really ought to give IE 9 a try — it brings the latest security updates to Windows 7.

IE 8 is just as important for Windows XP systems

Moving to IE 8 on Windows XP is just as critical as upgrading to IE 9 on Vista and Windows 7. However, as you might expect, IE 8 has far fewer user enhancements than does IE 9.

Before installing IE 8 permanently, verify that your add-ins and tool bars are compatible. For example, the XFinity Toolbar was not originally compatible with IE 8. (It might have since been fixed.) MS Help and Support article 2321301 provides a Fix it that disables the toolbar.

There are still a few websites that do not play well with IE 8 (and IE 9). Before uninstalling these browsers, try Compatibility View first. The MS Help & How-to page, “Why are some webpages blank or incorrectly displayed in Internet Explorer 9?” details how to turn Compatibility View on and gives other troubleshooting tips.

Even though we’re close to killing off IE 6 on Windows XP in most of the world, it’s a vastly different scenario in China. As noted on Microsoft’s IE 6 countdown site, 25 percent of China’s users are still running XP with IE 6. I sincerely hope that any Windows Secrets reader still running IE 6 would be doing so for only crucial reasons — and is keeping that XP system off the Web as much as possible.

Ten years ago, the Internet was a different place. Websites were kinder and gentler. Now, many of them want to attack you. It’s time to take stock of your Internet browsers and make sure they are as up to date as they can be.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2012-01-26:

Susan Bradley

About Susan Bradley

Susan Bradley is a Small Business Server and Security MVP, a title awarded by Microsoft to independent experts who do not work for the company. She's also a partner in a California CPA firm.