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What version of Internet Explorer should I be running?


Leo, I understand that Microsoft will be aggressively pushing IE8 and IE9
installation. I have been reading Ask Leo! for years, and when IE8 was first
released, I recall questions like, “How do I remove IE8?” Users were, apparently, having many problems with IE8, so I have avoided it all this time. At the
time, you recommended that readers use caution and perhaps not install IE8 unless
necessary. Would you please revisit the question of upgrading to IE8 and/or IE9
in view of the fact that Microsoft is trying to get everyone off IE6 and

Can those of us with Windows XP skip the IE8 upgrade and go straight to IE9,
and avoid the problems with IE8? I have XP with IE7. I have been having issues
with a few websites not viewing properly, especially Facebook. They
now have a permanent banner on my FB home page telling me to upgrade to IE8 or
switch to Chrome.

Much like their push to kill Outlook
, Internet Explorer 6 and of late Internet Explorer 7 have
apparently come on Microsoft’s radar for active abandonment.

Microsoft would like to see IE6 and IE7 disappear for a variety of

And, to be honest, so should you.


The rule of thumb

My rule of thumb with Internet Explorer versions is actually pretty simple.

Don’t upgrade right away.

But do upgrade eventually.

As you’ve seen from the older articles that you reference, each new version of IE seems to go through sort of a slightly painful birth. For a small percentage of early adopters – and I do have to stress that it really is a small percentage – each new version of IE seems to cause problems.

So … wait it out.

Wait for a month or two until any major problems have been identified and hopefully resolved. And then take the plunge.

Windows XP: IE8

IE8 is the last version of Internet Explorer that will run under Windows XP. IE9 requires Windows Vista or better.

At this point in time, there’s no reason not to upgrade to IE8 on Windows XP. It’s actually more stable, more secure, and in some cases, even faster than IE7. It’s most definitely more secure than IE6, which should most definitely be avoided.

Internet Explorer 9

Windows Vista & Windows 7: IE9

IE9 has been out long enough now that it pretty well had the worst issues shaken out of it. In general, I don’t see a reason to avoid it.

In fact, IE9 has several security and speed enhancements that actually make it preferable to IE8.

“IE sucks! IE9 crashes my machine! IE9 is sloooooow!”

Whenever I recommend IE, or specifically IE9, I definitely get negative feedback (occasionally with profanities included) from a few people.

Let me be clear: Internet Explorer works and works well for the vast majority of people.

However, the vast majority is not everyone.

And many of the IE problems that folks might encounter aren’t even due to IE itself.

If you are having problems with Internet Explorer, these three tips will very often clear things right up:

  • Scan for malware with updated tools and make sure that your scan is clean. IE is a frequent target for malware which can easily cause IE to misbehave, run slowly, or crash.

  • Disable add-ons in IE. Many programs attempt to add features to Internet Explorer by using add-ons. Unfortunately, add-ons can occasionally cause problems, which often manifest as if Internet Explorer were itself having the problem.

  • Keep IE up-to-date. IE might be one of Microsoft’s most important programs, and they are motivated to fix critical security problems as soon as they can. While it might not be soon enough for some, ignoring the fixes that they provide is a quick path to both malware infections as well as other issues.

If you’re still of a mind to avoid IE…

Choose an alternative

In reality, the “browser wars” are pretty much at a dead heat. In my opinion, you can’t really go too far wrong with any of the top three major players:

Each has its strengths and weaknesses, each has its (raving) fans and detractors.

Each of them works well for a large number of users.

If IE’s not your cup of tea for some reason, give one of the alternatives a try.

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32 comments on “What version of Internet Explorer should I be running?”

  1. I’ve never encountered any catastrophic browser related failure. Sure, there have been problems here and there, the odd web site that loads better in Firefox for one reason or another, but nothng disasterous. I run IE 9, but have Firefox and Chrome installed as backups. I’ve never understood extreme adverse reactions to browsers. I’ve often told clients that browsers are like cars. Some have a preference for Ford, some prefer Holden, others don’t care, as long as they get from point A to point B.

  2. My IE8 stopped working a long time ago but thankfully I had already downloaded Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome by then. When IE9 came along I upgraded hoping it would work but no change. I’ve actually discovered the only way I can use it is to right-click the icon and click Start InPrivate Browsing. Even then it sticks and works very slowly.

    The only reason I attempt to use it anymore is because my bank only allows online transactions on IE. I can view the account on other browsers as long as I’m not making an actual transaction.

  3. For each new release of IE I’ve used the Microsoft recommended prerequisites prior to installing. For IE9, those prerequisites are here:

    I also found out that once IE9 is installed, reboot the computer twice before attempting to open IE9. Don’t know why that is (other than perhaps some system file dependency issues that have to be addressed) but it worked. Didn’t have any issues on any of my computers.

  4. I’ve used Chrome and Firefox. But I went to IE 9 when it came out and it has worked fine. Really no need anymore to take another course except for personal preference. I agree with the advice about addons. Keep your browser install as clean as you can. It’ll speed things up and help avoid glitches.

    Note that you might run into websites (especially government sites) that haven’t been updated for IE 9. But so far compatibility mode has worked fine for me in such cases.

  5. I have used Firefox without issue for several years. Recently I replaced my 10 year old PC with a fast, new one. Now I must run IE to get gmail to display properly. I must use Firefox though, to see a cc statement. Do others find certain sites don’t like certain browsers? Thank for any insight.

  6. Run the most up-to-date, and updated version, even if you don’t browse with it. Older, unpatched versions will be more prone to malware attacks.

  7. Internet Explorer 9 is HORRIBLE. I have had to call in the Geek Squad to undo the damage that it has caused to my computer. I cannot open anything on my desktop without IE9 popping up a box with the question “Do you want to open or save this file.” When I click “open” nothing happens, when I click “save” nothing happens. Why do I need a box with a question asking if I want to open or save the file. I would not have clicked the tab on on the desktop if I did not want to open it.

  8. Leo,

    Good article, but perhaps one possible fatal error.

    I tell all my XP clients to use IE7 for one valid reason, that MS is aware of, and in fact provided a fix for me.

    If an XP user needs to complete a Windows repair, the screen will freeze upon reboot. The desktop background will display, but no icons will appear.

    This could be diagnosed as a fatal error, and cause the machine to be diagnosed as irreparable, if the repair person is not aware of this little anomaly.

    I was told (by Microsoft support) that the IE is being used at that point to check for updates & activate,
    and that IE8 is incompatible, hence the frozen screen.

    The “fix” requires booting into the command prompt screen, and removing IE8, and then rebooting. I have experienced this problem multiple times while working on client computers, as a tech.

    With all the XP users still out there, I would think that Microsoft would want to address this before sounding the death knell for IE7.

    Bob Bucher
    {phone number removed}

  9. And whats wrong with promoting Opera or even Safari Leo? Google Chrome? yeah right, after what they have just announced regards their changes. No Danger!

    There are probably a couple of dozen other browsers I could list. To keep things sane for the average user I focus on the “big 3”.

  10. I am afraid to use IE9 on VISTA. I have seen that all my contacts are informed if I’m on-line or not. Can I somehow stop this info ? I tried and read a lot of articles and help sites and can’t find a solution. Thanks guys for your advice.

    That has nothing to do with your browser. You must be running some kind of Instant Messaging program that might display your on-line status to your contacts. It’s not somthing that IE9 would change or cause.

  11. I’m still running Word-95, daily, and have no intent of changing. Also couple of DOS apps. Software running on XP does everything I need to do. There will be no “downgrades” from XP for me. ever. IE? Never, only if forced to use it by some backwards website.

    It’s regrettable the world is stuck with M$$. This company has no ethics, insatiable greed and doesn’t give a s— about its customers except trying to find ways to extract more $$$ from them. If you can do your work with XP and existing software, don’t “upgrade” ANYTHING.

  12. i have just been advised by Yahoo to go back to IE 8 as the new Yahoo mail has technical issues with IE 9. if you got problems IE 9 and Yahoo thats the solution. i would have thought they would have ironed out all the problems by now.

  13. Leo, I have the same opinion about waiting a month or more before installing a new version of Internet Explorer…there always seems to be a few bugs that need to be worked out. Also, I install ZoneAlarm Extreme Internet Security on all the computers that I work on, and I quite frequently run into an unstable IE9 that will close and recover if it is installed after ZoneAlarm. The issue seems to be the conflict between IE9 built in security features and ZoneAlarm’s security features. The solution that works for me every time, is to uninstall ZoneAlarm, open a web page, close the web page, then reinstall ZoneAlarm. This procedure has worked every time. It seems that ZoneAlarm autodetects the correct settings it needs in order to be compatible with IE9. Customers have had similiar problems with other internet protection programs, and the procedure has worked for them as well. Thnaks for all your great tips! Cordially yours…

  14. Hi Leo,

    I see that you are endorsing Google Chrome as an equally useful browser but my experience – and I think, that of many, is that Google Chrome tries to take over your system and is very difficult to get rid of.

    Am I being paranoid or has Google really got rid of the earlier problems?

    I’m afraid I’ve not heard of these problems that you’re referring to, so to me there were no problems to get rid of. I tend to use Chrome these days and it works well for me.

  15. I have a different rule of thumb for all software – do not install any version that ends in xxx.0 wait until .1 or .2. .1 releases come out very soon after .0

    When I was in software development, we made releases (market date/feature driven) on an “acceptable error rate” basis from testing. You can’t get all bugs found or fixed on complex systems and some are minor in nature or only might occur for a small segment of the release population. .1 release fixes some of those and some new ones not caught in testing.

  16. I for one would much more like to have IE 6 back,as it don’t have all the stupid tabs no one needs or for the home user to fight with. You know ,if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. IE 6 was clean and easy,all that was needed was good use of the internet. thank you.

  17. Personally, I only use I.E. for Windows Updated and (it’s required) to update Office Live websites I have. I will only use I.E. 8 at this time as 6 is just too old now, and 7 was a nightmare from day one! (Microsoft even had a file you could download to keep I.E.7 from automatically installing with Windows Update, does this tell you anything?)
    I use to swear by Firefox, but I’ve found anything after version 3.6 was slower, hangs constantly, etc.
    In my opinion, nothing is faster or easier than Chrome (any version), once you tweak the settings a little (ie: enable Instant Search).

  18. I always upgrade after xxx.1. I never use any IE as a browser but it is required for some things and it is easier to have it on board than fight City Hall. I’ve been using SeaMonkey for years and am very satisfied.

  19. @Irene Gugelhopf

    The problem you bring up regarding contacts is probably due to your privacy settings in your email program (gmail, hotmail, etc), or your instant messenger program (MSM, Yahoo messenger, Pidgin, etc). Your browser (IE8, IE9, Firefox, etc) isn’t likely to be the problem, unless you’ve contracted some piece of malware, but I haven’t heard of any that does that. Look in your settings/options for the program with the contacts you mentioned.

  20. I must have done something with my settings that messed up my laptop. I have only just begun using a computer, and was overly curious, I suppose. Now, I am locked out of Outlook Express, My Computer, and My Control Panel along with a few others. I have upgraded to 8 and have Windows XP. What should I do to get into my programs?

    I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean by “locked out”. I’d have to know what happens when you try, or what error message you get.


  21. I just want say that I tried IE9 back in May 2011 and it was horrible (see agelbert64 comments on MS IE9 problems forum).
    Recently I began to have problems with IE8 (connecting to the internet). I tried IE9 again and now it works great (no internet connectivity problems whatsoever) and actually has some new features (like the search INSIDE the address bar and instantly selectable search providers) that make it a pleasure to use.

    So, at least for now, I believe Microsoft has removed all the bugs in IE9.

  22. Up until recent Updates, I had no problems with IE8 or 9. However, something changed and I found that files selected for downloading never made it as IE was saving the url/instructions and not the resuit (the file I wanted). Switched back to IE8 and same problem there. Now I have to use Chrome as IE8 & 9 are not reliable nor function properly. In time I am sure that IE will once again work properly, but I do not have the confidence needed to use IE with any transactions on the web.

  23. My wife couldn,t us IE [did nothing] and the search function on Mycomputer wouldn’t work. All tests via MS pointed to a corrupt DLL. Seems MC and IE are tied together somehow. Outlook panels disappeared also [?]. Reinstalled IE8 over the top of old IE8 – FIXED everything. Seems one DLL can stuff up a lot of things. As for IE9 – read too many problems with it. IE8 install was a piece of cake, even kept every bookmark – bonus. You can stick IE9.

  24. You say –
    “there’s no reason not to upgrade to IE8 on Windows XP”
    I’ll give you (or some of you) a reason.

    Do you all create images of your hard drive (or main OS Partition) ?
    If you don’t you should be shot, or at least severely beaten.
    The Seagate web site has a free program called DiscWizard. WesternDigital has a similar one, but avoid WD, as their drives are non standard, and won’t fit vertically into the cheap external dock that you should use to store your images.

    Back to my main point.
    If you image your hard drive, and your PC dies, you can always use your image to do a repair install (not the recovery console repair) into a new PC.
    You Restore the image into the new PC (AND DO NOT BOOT INTO IT), then pop in your XP CD (not oem), and do a Repair Install.
    That allows Windows to adjust the drivers for the new hardware, and Bob’s your uncle.
    HOWEVER if you have a later version of IE (7 or 8), then your OS will never run properly.
    This happens because MS still insist on threading their applications (eg IE) into the flippin OS, like a Gao’uld.
    If you have say IE7 installed in your image, then when you attempt the repair install with your XP cd, it gets confused, as your XP cd does not know what IE7 is.
    So any of you’se out there that create images, you should uninstall IE7 and IE8, so that you can happily migrate your fully working OS, to a new PC

    Sorry to rain on the IE parade.

  25. I’ve been using IE 9 right since the beta version came out and the only problem I have ever had is an occasional website not working properly, and that can happen with any browser. I find faster and more secure than both Chrome and Firefox (which I also have installed, the only thing I use a different browser for, usually Chrome) is for Facebook as there is a wide variety of useful add-ons for Facebook that are not available for Internet Explorer.

    By the way, IE 9 cannot be used on Windows XP, it is only suitable for Vista and Windows 7 (someone asked that question earlier), however IE 8 can be used on XP, so far as I am aware ;o)

  26. Internet Explorer 8 causes nothing but problem!
    I wish that Microsoft had not ever released this Web browser. I installed Internet Explorer 9
    into my personal computer. Does Internet
    Explorer 9 also cause problems? Why did Microsoft Corporation kill Outlook Express?
    I miss Outlook Express!

  27. I’ve been using IE8 for nearly a year with my XP SP3 with no problems on my 2004 Compaq Presario SR1211NX. Although since I’ve made the mistake of hanging on to AOL and even updating it to 9.7 a month ago its been hanging up. So I guess I’m going to have to pick a new browser..oh joy. And don’t suggest Linux, I like it in theory but not in reality. And I find Google to be intrusive, of course I don’t understand the need for Facebook either.

  28. In my opinion, “two or three months” is MUCH too short a time to wait for the bugs to work out of a new browser version. You need to wait six months, at the least. But after that time, things should hopefully settle out.

    After hearing all sorts of horror stories and reading all manner of problem-solving articles about MSIE8, I finally upgraded our browser from MSIE6 — first intermediately to v7, and then to v8 — all in one afternoon. Because I had waited about eight months, the process went surprisingly smoothly for both  upgrades, and we now have the latest browser, which works quite well with virtually no difficulty at all. There was one  strange glitch at the very beginning, in which my Mom, on her computer account (but not on mine) had a stubbornly recurring browser startup configuration screen; this traced itself to an odd Registry key permission problem which went away once corrected. We’ve been happy campers with MSIE8 ever since.     :)

  29. In a moment of madness I tried all of the alternative browsers, including the ones you mention. I now swear by Flash Peak Slim Browser ( no connection with Flash Player as far as I know). This actually uses the IE engine, and so it accesses all of your IE favourites, but is much faster. It also has excellent ad blocking facilities.

    If for a particular reason I need any add ins, such as Flash Player, I use a different browser such as IE and make a cup of tea while I wait.

  30. I have been using IE 9 on my Windows 7 PC since the beta version was put out and I have had no problems at all other than the odd website that I’ve needed to look at in a different brower, and this applies to all major browsers whether beta or not, there will always be a few websites that don’t work well. I see no reason for reasonably tech-savvy users not to update their browser as early as possible, its us beta users that help Microsoft polish the software before proper release so it works as well as possible – with the proviso that there is no such thing as bug-free software, however novices should avoid it like the plague though.


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