Hi, Leo. My computer’s an HP Pavilion Slimline desktop PC. My operating system is Windows 7, Home Premium, 64-bit, Service Pack 1. I noticed in the last Windows Update, Internet Explorer 11 was included. IE 11 was included in the important updates. Now, I remember IE 10 was an optional update. Do I need to install IE 11? I’m still using IE 9. Would I have to install IE 10 before I install IE 11?
Let me answer the last part first: no, you won’t need to install IE 10 before IE 11. Windows Update would actually show you IE 10, if that was what you needed first.
Instead, as you noted, IE 11 is included immediately with Windows Update. Now, I’m not really sure what the criteria for important or optional might be according to Microsoft, but in general, my tendency would be to take the update.
I want to talk a little bit about why you should take the update, and my theory on why it changed from “optional” to “important”.
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Taking the update
In general, I recommend always taking the latest Internet Explorer update.
These days, the number of people who report problems due to the update is significantly smaller than it has been in the past. In the past, Internet Explorer had some rocky updates, and in some ways it got a bad reputation because of that. These days it’s actually pretty good.
As with any product, some small number of people are absolutely going to have issues. But for the vast majority of people it is indeed a safe upgrade.
The reason I recommend always updating to the latest IE is actually twofold: one, Internet Explorer has fundamentally become a better browser. It’s more standards-compliant and it’s faster than previous versions.
Second, new updates are more secure. Updates simply include more security fixes or design changes, not all of which get applied as patches to the older versions.
Important versus optional
Now that’s actually one of the reasons that I think that “important” and “optional” may have gotten changed. The update from IE 9 to 10 was really more about Windows 8 than anything else. For people not using Windows 8, there probably wasn’t a tremendous amount of value to the update. Hence, it was optional. And you’ll notice that IE 10 is what was included in Windows 8. I think that’s specifically why IE 10 exists.
The update from 10 to 11 however, isn’t really as much about adding support for a new version of Windows as it is about improving the browser overall. IE 11 is better; it’s more secure; and it’s probably got some bug fixes that the simple transition from 9 to 10 didn’t have.
As a result, the transition from 10 to 11 or from 9 to 11 becomes more … “important”.