| By Woody Leonhard |
To the surprise of many, Microsoft seems to have built into the forthcoming Windows 7 a way to completely disable Internet Explorer, if you know the trick.
Meanwhile, in response to complaints from the European Commission, the software giant is also proposing to ship within the Continent a version of Windows 7 without IE, although Microsoft’s plan would allow PC makers themselves to freely install Redmond’s browser.
IE integration and disintegration with Windows
To understand where the browserless version of Windows is heading, it helps to remember where it’s been. Internet Explorer has had a long and rocky relationship with Windows. Really. In fact, the first version of IE didn’t ship with Windows; it was part of the Microsoft Plus! Pack, a separately installed, extra-cost add-on for Windows 95.
IE gradually wended its way into the heart and soul of Windows, but the process took several years. Few people seem to remember that the Quick Launch toolbar, for example, started out as a feature of Internet Explorer 4, not Windows itself.
By the time Windows 98 hit the streets, IE had become so inextricably woven into the OS that security holes in the browser became security holes in Windows itself: your PC could get infected by an IE vulnerability even if IE wasn’t running.
Just as Microsoft once spent years weaving IE into the fabric of Windows, the company has more recently spent years tearing the infectious beast out. In theory, Windows Vista allows you to “disable” Internet Explorer:
- Step 1. Click Start, Default Programs;
- Step 2. Choose Set program access and computer defaults;
- Step 3. Choose Custom;
- Step 4. Uncheck Enable access to this program in IE’s listing and click OK. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. Unchecking “Enable access to this program” in Vista’s Set Program Access and Computer Defaults dialog doesn’t really disable IE.