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Internet Explorer 6 Support Ends Here

Every now and then, I'll get an e-mail from a reader describing a problem they're having with the Web. Often, this problem turns out to be related to their choice--or lack of choice--in browsers: They're still running Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6, one of the least secure and least useful browsers on Windows.

One of those queries came up in yesterday's chat:

Most times I when I shut down my pc-Windows XP SP2-it doesn't shut but I get error: "iexplore.exe has to shut down" I gotta click a few times on End manually till it shuts down. Many times IE6 freezes and I get the iexplore.exe error. I don't wanna upgrade to IE7 or to Firefox. Thanks a lot.

The chatter's penultimate sentence set me off. My reply was harsher than usual:
This isn't what you want to hear, but I'll say it anyway: Upgrade to Firefox. IE 6 is obsolete and dangerous, and I'm not going to help you stick with software that a) endangers your computer and b) isn't even working right.

I might have phrased that reply a little more gently--that chatter may think of me as the restaurant that won't cook a steak medium-well. But ditching IE 6 is by far the simplest, quickest way to upgrade a Windows computer's security.

Why? You will close your vulnerability to the vast majority of the "browser hijacking" attacks waiting online. Your computer won't get hacked if you land on the wrong Web page by accident. (See Brian Krebs' Security Fix blog for descriptions of recent browser hijacks.)

Microsoft's security patches have fixed many vulnerabilities exploited by these attacks, but they can't change basic flaws in IE 6's architecture. That browser is just "more vulnerable" than its successor Internet Explorer 7, said Symantec product manager Tom Powledge at a meeting this summer--before adding that he wasn't aware of any drive-by downloads attacking Firefox. (A copy of Firefox can, however, still be endangered by attacks targeting browser plug-ins such as Apple's QuickTime.)

So if you're still on IE 6, it's time to go. If you ask for assistance with that browser, I won't provide that help anymore--instead, I'll suggest you fix the root of the problem by getting a better browser.

If you run Windows XP, you can upgrade to IE 7. But for most users, the easier upgrade, in terms time needed to adjust to a new interface, will be to Mozilla Firefox. (See my review of both of those releases.) Opera is another good choice, and should run faster than IE or Firefox on an older machine with less memory.

If you've never added a program before, see the tutorials provided for installing Firefox and Opera. Neither Firefox nor Opera will uninstall IE--remember, it's an "integrated" part of Windows--but will take over browsing duties from the Microsoft software.

I realize that some readers use IE 6 in offices that don't allow them to install any software to be installed. There's nothing they or I can do about that (besides trying to slap some sense into the IT department). But at home, nobody's stopping you from fixing this. Microsoft effectively abandoned IE 6 a long time ago, and you should too.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 21, 2007; 11:17 AM ET
Categories:  The business we have chosen  
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Comments

I use Firefox, but certain Microsoft updates open the explorer browser. The problem? I'm stuck with IE6 b/c whenever I download IE7 (directly from MS) and try to use it, my computer completely freezes & IE7 doesn't work. How do I fix this? Thanks

Posted by: Me | September 21, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Amen! The only good thing about IE6 was that it opened quickly. Firefox and IE7 are a bit slower to start up, in my experience.

Firefox is even more secure with the NoScript extension, which I installed recently. It apparently protected against the QuickTime vulnerability before it was patched this week.

Posted by: William | September 21, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

What advice do you have for people stuck in companies with IT departments that adamantly refuse to upgrade to IE 7 (like the 4,000 people in my company)? Don't even say "open source" in their presence!

Posted by: Kelly | September 21, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

As long as your just using your browser to surf the web and not having to log onto company provided sites, you can install Firefox onto a USB drive and carry it around with you. I'm not sure all the technical details (I've done it with AOL IM) but I'm pretty sure it's copying the .exe file onto the USB drive. Hope this helps.

Posted by: Charles | September 21, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I like Firefox and I prefer it to IE 7. Still I think your saying "get firefox" as solution to a problem with IE6 is not good advice. Why not just tell the user to upgrade to the latest version of any of the major browsers IE, Firefox, Opera etc. Just seems to me that you have a pro-Firefox bias. IE 6 has a lot of vulnerabilities as I am sure older version of Firefox have.

Posted by: Bart | September 21, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I hear you, Rob, but it was huge effort to get my great-aunt on the Internet at all. If I have to set her up with a new browser and explain tabs and all the other changes, I'll lose my mind!

Posted by: Tom T. | September 21, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

penultimate
Great word! I've got to smile when a Tech Blog sends me to the dictionary.

Posted by: Norm | September 21, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

On my site (Liquidmatrix.org) roughly 47% of my users per day are using Internet Explorer. Of that number 92% of them are using IE6. If I can get my folks to use Firefox, Skype and Gmail then anything is possible. But, pulling IE6 from the clutches of some people seems to be like performing surgery with a rusty spoon. It isn't pretty.

Posted by: Dave Lewis | September 21, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Dude. I'd LOVE to ditch IE6. I use and adore Firefox at home (although the memory usage problem inherent with multiple tabs has been and will continue to be a problem), but at work? It's a government office, users have no permissions to install software, and the IT department has yet to upgrade us even to IE7. I weep for tabbed browsing on a daily basis.

Sadly, until the government manages to speed up its pokey validation scheme, there are many, many users who will have to deal with Microsoft's subpar and irritating product. A little sympathy and help for those afflicted would be welcome, instead of reflexive scorn and insults.

Posted by: Apium | September 21, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

For Norm, now look up antipenult. I remember that from Latin Grammar 60 years ago.

Posted by: Walt | September 21, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I found you can install Firefox on Admin-locked down systems simply by installing it to somewhere other than Program Files.

Yesterday I was using a locked down internet cafe terminal where the idiot admin had installed (or locked down too late) various spyware add-ons like Hotbar.

My general preference is to use FF now, but IE7 is often a better/necessary choice for some popular web-apps. Google's Blogger may have a better edit interface under FF, but there are persistent login issues which are experienced under FF and not with IE. Given Google's propensity for pushing FF, one would think they would be more proactive in addressing problematic interactions with their own products.

Photo upload via Java is also broken on Facebook when using FF. (Both of these appear to be long documented issues.)

Posted by: Mike | September 21, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Make that antepenult!

Posted by: Walt again | September 21, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Answers to your questions and comments follow...

Charles: You can download a version of Firefox customized to run on a USB thumb drive at PortableApps.com

Bart: I recommended Firefox because I like it--that's the browser I use on all of my Windows machines. It also has fewer issues displaying some non-standard Web pages than Opera does (which, as I've found from reading my reader mail, is one of the biggest hangups people have about switching browsers).

Apium: My scorn and insults are not directed at you, but at the boneheaded IT department that's wasting your and my tax dollars. (You're welcome to leave a printout of this blog post on the IT director's chair... though it seems that you might want to give him time to sound out all the words in it.)

Mike: I just uploaded a few photos to my Facebook page using the latest versions of Firefox and Sun's JRE (2.0.0.7 and version 6 update 2). I had to click past a vague error message, and some of pictures didn't show up as thumbnail previews when I was selecting which ones to upload--but otherwise, everything worked. What problem should I have run into?

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | September 21, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

The U.S. government uses IE6? Oh no.

Posted by: A | September 21, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

For older computers, I would recommend K-meleon. (kmeleon.sourceforge.net) It uses the same backend as Firefox. On newer computers, it boots up fast.

Posted by: Dana-Kim | September 21, 2007 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Install the latest IE, Firefox, and Opera.
And use them in this order Opera, Firefox, IE. Opera has the fastest and easiest browser and Firefox is right behind it. The only reason I use IE7 is for Rhapsody.

Posted by: browserhunter | September 22, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

RP - it looks like Facebook/Sun have finally addressed the photo upload picture this week. There's a longstanding Java cache error that would hang the entire browser. If you Google the terms "facebook photo java cache" you'll get quite a number of hits.

The other reason I had to hang onto IE, is that my Fidelity online banking application just didn't work properly in anything else (many pages blank, buttons inoperative). They don't actually state the browser needed, or attempt to detect the browser and post a warning. Their product support just get sniffy about it. I got sniffier and left.

Posted by: Mike | September 22, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Dear Kelly,
The decision not to upgrade to IE7 is know as job secuirty.

Posted by: Ted | September 22, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes, you've taken all you can and you just have to rant... Please be patient.

I'm getting really sick of being treated like some kind of leper. Why? Let me connect the dots...

- I still use IE.

- I still use IE because it's what I have to support at work - both during the day & after-hours too.

- We use IE at work because of several vital web-based apps that are hard-coded for IE.

- These are well-written (except for being hard-coded to IE) mission-critical apps by vendors with whom we've paid LOTS of money to do business with.

- Those vendors are NOT prepping browser-independant versions of their apps so...

- IE must be used to access those apps on our 1100+ PCs at work - in addition to the several hundred other remotely-connected PCs in the region.

- Therefore, I use IE. (I prefer v7 and run it on my own PCs, but 99% of the PCs I support use IE v6 because that's what the vendors will officially support.)

I've been an IT guy for nearly 20 years. I cut my teeth on computers that stored data on tape. I was intimately familiar with DOS. I've used EVERY version of Windows ever released, from v1.0 up. I'm not stupid. But I also have no choice but to use the browser that's required for the apps that I support for a living.

And y'know what, in spite of the fact that there aren't hundreds of hoozits, gadgets, and greasy monkeys available for it, IE gets the job done - it lets me access the web. Yup, even crappy ol' IE v6 will, amazingly enough, actually access Internet sites! Shocking, no?

So, to the the blogging community at large, please stop treating me like some sort of invertebrate pond scum because I don't use FireFox.

Posted by: Rob O. | September 23, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

In light of the fact that there are so many security issues with IE6, I do not understand why the vendors to which these companies have paid "LOTS of money" to aren't being forced by those same companies to update their mission critical apps to work with IE7. I personally use Firefox, but IE7 is a vast improvement over IE6 which MS doesn't even support anymore! I would probably use IE7 more myself except in my zeal for security on my PC, I have disabled the ActiveX controls to the point that I can't update the Adobe Flashplayer to the .47 version (keep getting an error message) and so am afraid to use it with the outdated version. Any suggestions on how I can undo what I did without totally letting ActiveX have it's way with my computer? (I have, of course, updated the Adobe Plug-in for FF but my IE7 remains unused.) I just can't figure out what the configuration should be. Every time I reach a point where I think I've graduated to maybe intermediate on the user scale, my computer rewards my arrogance with a bump right back down to possibly advanced beginner!

Posted by: Kat1110 | September 23, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I think it's a little hilarious when people sagely .#complain about ActiveX controls and then d/l any old FF plugin or other browser extensions. You know what folks? They're ALL programs.

Posted by: Mike | September 24, 2007 6:28 AM | Report abuse

As an orthopaedic surgeon, we get xrays delivered to us by patients on CDs with imbedded reader/viewer programs. Not only do many of these require IE, they require it as the default, since I can't open them independently, only as an automatic start up!
ARRRGHGGHGHH

Posted by: Doc Rock | September 24, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I love stuffy "winGeniuses" who define themselves by what archaic technology the once knew. How does your understanding of OS/2 help you now?

The only way I run IE (6 or otherwise) is on a virtual machine on my mac. When the inevitable corruption occurs, I can just wipe it, restore from disk image of 'last known good copy' and off I go.

I concur with the poster who suggested that anyone who allows their vendors to lock them into ancient technology needs to be kneecapped; you're not still using an abacus because it keeps your electric bills down, are you?

Pish.

Posted by: Bush -- not related | September 24, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Have you ever tried Opera? It's supposed to be the fastest Browser on the Web. I have been using it for over 6 years and I love it!

Posted by: Sandi | September 24, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Run IE6 in a sandbox like Sandboxie and don't worry about it. Better yet run all browsers in a sandbox.

Posted by: Al | September 24, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I should admit my bias. I am at home, a dedicated Mac user. At work however it is a Windows world. After also getting tired of waiting for pages to load in IE6, I downloaded Safari for Windows. I realize it is still in beta, but I've been using it for over a month with no problems, and it is fast.
Give it a try.

Posted by: Bruce | September 25, 2007 12:52 AM | Report abuse

The local MLS system, know here as MRIS REQUIRES IE for certain downloads.

Last time I called Earthlink tech support [not long ago] I was advised NOT to upgrade to IE7 due to what Earthlink considered 'remaining issues' [for Earthlink or for end users ???]

My browser of choice is FIREFOX and I also have Opera and SeaMonkey as well as IE6. I have IE6 because my version of Windows Professional apparently was copied TOO MANY TIMES by other Realtors at a previous company, so XP Windows Verification has blocked my version of both XP and OFFICE.

BUT THERE IS A BACK DOOR INTO WINDOWS XP UPDATES THAT BYPASSES THE GUI VERIFICATION PROCESS. IT CAN BE FOUND AT GOOGLE SELF HELP UNDER [X Google program is not working properly.] One of the recommendations is make sure you have the latest Windows updates and a lynk that then bypasses GUI
[apparently] works for XP and Office updates, but alas, not for IE7 if I recall correctly.

A good way to get around the WaPo rapid posting BLOCK is to run multiple browsers back to back for consecutive posts.

Lately, unless I am wrong, I have been having to clear my 'private data' on Firefox almost daily and it still comes up very slowly on startup, but not after clearing private data.

FIREFOX -- any way to speed this process up? Opera is great, SeaMonkey is OK, but I like the Google toolbar for spelling and translations and the toolbar is not available for either browser.

Earthlink mailbox is also good, but trying to get it to work with Gmail is BEYOND Earthlinks technical knowledge and dido for Outlook 2002 with Gmail. The settings suggested by Gmail self help don't work at all and while modifying those settings will get Gmail to work, every time you download messages, it downloads EVERYTHING again instead of only new messages.

COMMENTS re FIXES are welcome to my e-mail above.

Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | September 25, 2007 6:01 AM | Report abuse

Bob O, i think you're the man. No need to say anything more, never seen an argument out so clearly..

Posted by: Beatnyama | September 25, 2007 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Bob O, i think you're the man. No need to say anything more, never seen an argument out so clearly..

Posted by: Beatnyama | September 25, 2007 6:31 AM | Report abuse

I am one of those guy in the IT department that won't let people upgrade. Not that I disagree with most of the things said here. The reallity is many websites (government, manufacturing) and some third party software are not compatible with IE7 or Firefox. Yes I understand this is lame but it is a fact. At home I use Firefox and IE7 but in the office I still force everyone to use IE6 until other industries catch up.

Posted by: klinton | September 25, 2007 8:43 AM | Report abuse

IE7 was (apparently) thwarting my attempts in Roxio Easy Media Creator (EMC) to import "titles" (movies) into a DVD video project (I found out after long detective work). So I uninstalled IE7 (leaving the embedded IE6 on my machine). The EMC video feature worked. I do prefer Firefox now and only use IE6 for that odd website that doesn't display properly with Firefox.

Posted by: Ray | September 25, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Rob, I am with you 100%. There is no reason the average home user should still be using IE6. Upgrade to IE7 and Firefox already. People need to stop whining about their tech support issues if they aren't willing to make the effort necessary to correct them.

Bob O., it sounds to me like you need to raise the issue with those companies that you paid LOTS of money. How would you react if you bought a new door for your house, and they told you it couldn't be locked? Would you accept that, or would you complain?

For those that *must* use IE6 due to other companies' incompetent coding, you need to protect yourselves by going into the Security tab in Internet Options and turning OFF all javascript and active X for the Internet Zone. Then, add any sites that must use IE6 and Active X or javascript to your Trusted Zone.

However, any company that's too lazy/incompetent to get their website to work with anything other than IE6, I don't know that I would trust their website not to be hacked.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

To all the folks wanting to kneecap IT for doing business with vendors who haven't certified their apps to work with IE7 or Firefox -- you all sound like idiots. You make it sound like it's as easy as switching on a light. It costs MILLIONS and years to upgrade some of these apps. By then, your old vendor has caught up and you haven't spent a lot of money unnecessarily.

Posted by: jzmn2 | September 25, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I was forced to delete IE7 this week because it was crashing Microsoft Money 6.0, which crashed as soon as it was launched. I use IE only for those rare instances where I am forced to use it to access some site.

The need to uninstall IE 7 was the conclusion of a Microsoft help desk who was trying to get Money 6.0 to be stable. The "fix" worked.

I don't know if I am caught between a rock and hard place, or the devil and deep blue sea. You would think Microsoft could get it right with their own products.

Posted by: THarries | September 25, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm constantly puzzled by some of the reactions to Rob's FF vs IE advice. It seems to me that a lot of the (disgruntled) `I have to use IE6' reactions come from people who are using them at work. Fine, except Rob's column is aimed at HOME users - isn't it?

Posted by: Andy | September 25, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Is there a way to use IE7 or Firefox and have desktop items that refresh automatically? Desktop items do not seem to be available with IE7 or Firefox. How about a work around?

Posted by: Philip Caswell | September 25, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Use FF with the IE View extension. Specifying which URL's require the use of IE within the system will auotmatically launch those pages in IE. We have a CMS system here that requires use of IE so when I type that link from FF, it automatically launches IE. So if you have legacy apps that require IE but want to predominantly run FF, you can do both.

Posted by: Odymon | September 25, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

go to
Computercops
http://www.castlecops.com/
and find out why you should get the latest browser and stick with learning more about the security of your personal PC.

and update to I.E.7,
you need it to update the copy of windows on PATCH TUESDAY.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/ie/getitnow.mspx?wt_svl=10005WHa1&mg_id=10005WHb1

If you're smart,
you'll go get Firefox 2.0.0.7 also
and make it your default browser.
http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/

and go to the calendarofupdatesdotcom and take the free online security course.

http://www.dozleng.com/updates/Invitation-to-the-Freshman-Course-t4817.html
..
...

and stop using the email client you have and use an online or web based email service like GMAIL;
you will be safer all around.

..
...

Posted by: mrclarke | September 25, 2007 5:19 PM | Report abuse

>theador@verizon.net sept.29th 08:00

What is a good inexpensive Graphics software? Something for drafting lines for floor plans plans. Only for self use not for business.

Wm.M.

Posted by: william | September 29, 2007 8:14 AM | Report abuse

All I can say (as a web developer and owner of an ISP) is it's Microsoft, large corporations, governments, and lap-dog (Microsoft bum lickin') IT departments that are ruining the web and holding back it's progress.

If businesses moved wholesale away from IE then these big organisations would be forced (and rightly so) to make their sites work on standards compliant browsers.

If IE6 is insecure and full of vulnerabilities and Active X also then they need to upgrade to keep the data they hold secure from hacking.

Basically though it all boils down to Microsoft and their insistence on owning or stealing every market they get into.

That's why they insist on stupid insecure technologies like Active X and poor support for standards.

Certain idiotic poor excuses for web designers use the false paradigm that because IE is the most prolific browser (or pseudo browser) they think they should code for it. Big mistake!

The web is built on standards and these standards are clearly specced and suggested to browser manufacturers by the W3C.

Everyone except Microsoft (who are a member of W3C by the way) take notice and build support into their browsers for these new technologies.

IE6 is 12 years old. It was started in 1995. There are so many new technologies that it won't support. PNG transparencies, most of CSS2, all of CSS3, SVG graphics etc etc...

I think the IT industry should move wholesale to Linux for servers and Macs for desktops and in turn force banks and large corporations to support web standards in their sites instead of burying their head in the sand and supporting the rubbish from Redmond.

Posted by: Papa-Raboon | October 5, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

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