IE8 Installation: the User is in Control

As a follow-up to my prior blog post about Automatic Update/Windows Update distribution that began gradually in April, I want to provide an overview of the control users have over the installation and experience.

First, to reiterate what I explained last month: when offered by Automatic Update, IE8 will not automatically install- the user has control over whether to upgrade to IE8. When offered IE8, three choices are offered: Ask later, install, or don’t install. If one chooses “Ask me later” then IE8 will continue to be offered via Automatic Update, and choosing “Don’t Install” will cause IE8 to no longer be offered via this method. Users who choose “Don’t Install” can still download IE8 from or from Windows Update as an optional update.

Users continue to have complete control over IE8 settings and behavior throughout the first-run experience and ongoing use. For example, if IE is not the default browser in Windows, the option to change this setting is presented in a wizard that runs the first time IE8 is launched.

The “express settings” option allows one to view and set several pre-defined settings, many of which are optimized for safety and reliability:

Internet Explorer 8 Express Settings Dialog

Update 5/9/09: We have updated the above screenshot. The original screenshot was taken when Internet Explorer was already the default browser at the time of the upgrade to IE8 - in that case the default browser setting is not shown, since choosing the Express Settings option would not make any changes to this setting.  If a browser other than Internet Explorer is the default at the time of the upgrade to IE8 the wizard will appear as shown above, displaying the default browser setting.

For service settings such as the search provider, express settings will respect your existing service choices when upgrading from a prior version such as IE7 or a prior pre-release version of IE8. For more information about IE8’s services, see Jane Kim’s Personalize IE8 through Services post.

If one wants to manage these settings more granularly, the “Choose custom settings” option provides the ability to set each setting individually:

Internet Explorer 8 Default Browser Dialog in Custom Settings

Finally, while using IE8, if another browser is set as the default users will be given the opportunity to change the default, as well as determine whether to be reminded again:

Change the Default Browser Dialog

Different browsers take different approaches to how their settings are managed; IE8 is designed to leave the decisions to the user, providing choice and control over the browsing experience.

Eric Hebenstreit
Lead Program Manager

Edit 5/9/09: Updating first screenshot.  The original screenshot was taken on an upgrade when IE was already the default browser.  The updated screenshot is taken on an upgrade when a different browser is the default.  See this new blog post for more details.

Comments (54)
  1. Jorge says:

    That’s really nice, specially when you have issues with other software. I have a HP laptop using Windows Vista with DigitalPersona fingerprint software, and it has problems with IE8, so I decided not to install IE8 right now, maybe some time later, when DigitalPersona releases an update or fix.

    Anyway, IE8 seems really nice!

    Best regards!

  2. fmerletti says:

    If the user has firefox as a default browser and choose "express settings", does IE8 become the default browser without asking the user?

    i’m refering to this post, see the screenshot there:

  3. Stephen Preston says:

    I really think the default behaviour should be to respect the users current default browser choice on install. The user will get the chance to make IE8 the default choice if they decide to use it anyway.

  4. Sean Hogan says:

    That’s great. Any word on when the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Images are going to be updated? They expired on April 30.

  5. David Naylor says:

    You are being frowned upon for being sneaky about the default browser setting.

    The summary of "express" ("sneaky") settings should state that IE8 is being made default browser!

    You guys just can’t seem to stick to fair play!

  6. Vygantas says:

    David Naylor,

    At least it doesn’t make it as default browser right after install (if you don’t change anything), like in Firefox and Opera

  7. David Naylor says:

    Vygantas: I don’t know what Opera does, but Firefox always prompts the user before changing that setting. (Both during install and on first run.)

  8. Tihiy says:

    >90% of users will just click red button in the corner.

    And after installing IE8 on several PCs, I will too. Because it’s boring, ugly and lengthy.

    Nobody wants spending several minutes on yes/no wizards and non-informative sites.

    What could have been useful there:

    – Configuring search provider (one "Google" button and that’s it);

    – Configuring annoying tab and ClearType options;

    – Back up/restore accelerators/favorites easily.

  9. boen_robot says:

    @David Naylor and @Vygantas

    All browsers want to make themselves the default. If you just click through "Next" without reading what’s on screen, you’ll make your last installed browser the default one…

    But also, all browsers give you the option to not make the browser the default one, even if its set to make it default by default (excuse the pun).

    At least IE8 has the dignity not to have any option selected by default (see the second last screenshot in the post) IF you select "Choose custom settings". I set IE8 as the default browser on all machines I have (but I also have all other browsers installed), so I don’t know if "Use express settings" makes IE8 the default without a prompt, but I believe that even if you don’t see that prompt during setup (as the second last screenshot), you’d see it at first launch (as the last screenshot)… at least I’d expect that. Correct me if I’m wrong on that one.

    But even if IE8 does make itself the default when using express settings, I for one wouldn’t mind that. When you select "Use express settings", you’re basically saying "Do whatever you will, but don’t bother me. If I have a problem with what you’ve done, I’d fix it later myself. For now, I just want to get my new browser. NOW!".

  10. boen_robot says:

    Oh, BTW,


    I just saw that the article you mention has been updated, saying IE8 *does* tell the user it will change the default browser when you select "Use express settings".

    That also answers whether IE8 prompt at first launch – it doesn’t, and it says so during setup.

  11. billybob says:

    Why not make IE 8 so good that everyone will WANT to make it default instead of tricking less technical users into using it again?

    I suspect even a non-technical user will know that their browser UI suddenly changed but I doubt they will know how to switch it back.

    Must be worth it for the 0.5% increase in marketshare you get, I am not so sure it will look good for the EU though.

    Thanks again Microsoft, because of your action I will have to spend another few hours of unnecessary work (again).

    @boen_robot : "All browsers want to make themselves the default."

    Only when you install them specifically.  They do not have hooks into Windows update and make themselves default again after updating.  An update should always keep existing settings, even if the developer has hooks into Windows Update and happens to think their browser is the best.

    Giving users prompts does not mean anything (Microsoft know this from years of security problems).  They always click yes because they do not understand the question and they know that clicking yes, ok or next always gets things done.

    "IE is not your default browser" – I have met many many people who do not know what IE, default or browser means.  Very few know what all 3 are.  Also, while we are on the subject, NOBODY knows what an ActiveX control is.

  12. Will Peavy says:

    Any news on when IE App Compatibility VPC Images for XPSP3, with a new expiration, will be RTW?

  13. fmerletti says:


    so, basically the fact is:

    If an user has firefox as a default browser and choose "express settings" then IE8 become the default browser without asking the user ( i don’t count a line of info as a question, because 95% of users won’t read any of this lines ).

    This is at least unethical, IMHO.

    I mean, if the IE8 setup will change the default browser just ask the user a *straight* question:


    "Do you wan’t to have IE8 as a default browser instead of the current default (Firefox)?

     [ YES ] [ NO ]


    It is not so hard, isn’t it?

  14. John Wright says:

    The early sections seemed relavant, and I was able to understand a fair amount of the material, though with no certain sense of how it will be something I need down the road.

    The rest of it became more and more complicated Greek.  I could see that they were important to people who use and need such applications and functionality.  But, lines of demarcation pointing out what is crucial for daily household operation would be very welcome.

  15. boen_robot says:


    > They do not have hooks into Windows update

    > and make themselves default again after

    > updating.

    While IE8 is indeed distributed via Windows Update, as this post explains, it doesn’t install itself, or make any settings without user intervention. This includes making itself the default browser. If the user is careless, that’s THEIR problem.

    > Giving users prompts does not mean anything

    > (Microsoft know this from years of security

    > problems).  They always click yes because

    > they do not understand the question and they

    > know that clicking yes, ok or next always

    > gets things done.

    Indeed… and how many of those users actually have another browsers and/or care what a "browser" is? This isn’t a problem for them.


    >( i don’t count a line of info as a question,

    > because 95% of users won’t read any of this

    > lines ).

    Well then, if you can dismiss that, then I don’t count Firefox’s checkbox, which is checked by default. Ignorant Firefox users are just going to click "Next", and make Firefox the default browser. Some of those people might not even notice. How dare Firefox do that! Oh, and Opera does it too. How date they!

    Note that there are two classes of users – newbies and power users.

    Users that have willingly (for real) made Firefox their default browsers are generally power users. Power users are expected to either select "Choose custom settings" and/or watch out for anything that appears on screen during IE8’s setup.

    Newbie users are expected to click through anything that goes on screen, selecting "Yes", "Next", or "OK". Even such users will be forced to make the decision of "Use express settings" at the first setup screen. Such users would also not care what happens after the install. The lines of text are really for power users, not for newbies.

    If you’re like me, and install IE8 very often on various newbie friends’ machines, you’ll likely follow the following procedure for best experience – install IE8 using express settings, reset IE8 (to eliminate all inherited settings), adjust some of the advanced settings like turning on SmartScreen filter and Suggested Sites (and maybe even adjust the security settings, though I personally leave those to the defaults), install some search engines, making Google the default one, remove all built-in favorites, and if you’re really into it – install a few useful Accelerators like "Preview and Launch URL", and "Manage add-ons" to make sure all unneeded add-ons are disabled, and all needed ones are present and updated.

    In such a kind of procedure, you wouldn’t really care what the browser says during installation, as long as there’s an option for it later. And when users can install IE8 themselves, they’d normally fit into one of the profiles described above and/or, like me, would be ignorant of this issue to begin with (after all, anything is better than IE6).

    And before you ask me why I don’t install Firefox at such newbie friends – it’s much easier to make people upgrade then it is to make them switch. In addition, IE still remains in the OS, and may be used by some programs. It’s a good idea to have the latest IE for such moments. Besides, I don’t really like Firefox that much. I prefer Opera.

  16. billybob says:

    Wow – That sounds like a lot of work to just get a decent secure browser.  I prefer this procedure.

    1. Install Firefox for friend.

    2. Walk away.

    I don’t like it when this happens.

    1. Install Firefox.

    2. MS update replaces default browser because user is ‘stupid’.

    3. I have to explain to them over the phone how the user interface changed to something terrible and how to get their old one back.

    IE was good in the 20th century but people have moved on a lot since the release of IE6.  Did Microsoft expect we would all wait for them to release a decent browser and then welcome them with open arms when they finally make something that is not a complete pile?

    Firefox only asks if it should be default when you first install it, it does not ask on every update.  They certainly do not try to trick ‘stupid’ users into making it default to inflate their figures.

  17. boen_robot says:

    Yeah. I don’t like the second scenario either. That’s why I isntall the latest IE (today, that’d be IE8), and forget about it.

    > Did Microsoft expect we would all wait for

    > them to release a decent browser and then

    > welcome them with open arms when they finally

    > make something that is not a complete pile?

    To follow up on that metaphor, I think the MSIE team don’t deserve hugs and/or kisses just yet (assuming that’s what the opened arms are for), but they do deserve a salute, a handshake or a wink – IE8 is a great leap from IE7 after all, even though it’s still not as good as other browsers.

    > Firefox only asks if it should be default

    > when you first install it, it does not ask on

    > every update.

    It’s been a long time since I did this, so correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t an upgrade from Firefox 2 to Firefox 3 ask for you to make it the default browser yet again (assuming you changed your default browser between the FF2 and FF3 installations)? If you download the executable from the site, rather than from the Help menu, doesn’t it also ask again (major OR minor version; again assuming the default is changed)?

    Point it that minor updates in general (IE security and reliability updates from Windows Update or Firefox’s Help menu) don’t change settings. But it’s normal for major ones to ask you to change settings yet again, even if they preserve most of the old version’s settings, as in the case of IE8.

  18. hexaae says:

    Issue with IE7/Vista to IE8 update.

    I have Vista SP, x86, ITA. I upgraded from IE7 to IE8. Everything went right as expected except a problem: default web accelerator ‘Tranlsate with Live Search’ is set as default in arabic-english instead of expected english-italian.

    Switching ‘Protected mode’ off the default language for translation is correct: english-italian.

    Looks like a bug in the update process.

  19. hexaae says:

    After some investigation it seems that a wrong cookie is saved in "%appdata%MicrosoftWindowsCookiesLow<username>[n].txt" containing ar_en instead of en_it as it should…

    Removing the cookie doesn’t solve the problem.

    How do I solve this problem?

  20. JP says:

    Just force an IE8 update for users of IE 5.5, 6, and 7.  What is this giving the ‘users’ control nonsense?  That is what causes such a split environment for web development and so many users still stuck on extremely old browser versions.

    Force the update!  Or at least only give two options: install now or ask me later.  And then continually give warnings about their browser every time they start until they update. People that don’t spend considerable parts of their day on computers are afraid of changing things and will not update unless forced.  Force it!

  21. fmerletti says:


    "Well then, if you can dismiss that, then I don’t count Firefox’s checkbox, which is checked by default."

    i respect your "counting" but let me say that you are equaling

    i) a message box that popups exclusively to ask a question to the user ( firefox )


    ii) a line ( in smaller fonts ) into many lines in a "express settings" radio button

    IMHO clearly i) != ii)

  22. JFall says:

    After installing IE 8 I was unable to open any e-mail attachments on MSN.

    Verizon/MSN advised me to uninstall IE 8 as it is not compatible with MSN.

    The solution worked and I am able to open all attachments now that I’m back to IE 7.

    I wish Microsoft and MSN would better communicate and coordinate upgrades.

  23. Robin Capper says:

    Where does IE8 get/store location settings? One ecommerce site reports "not in correct region" since upgrading to 8. Before that IE7 worked fine, Firefox still does on the same machine.

    All the Windows Regional & Language settings are "local", New Zealand, proved by Firefox still working.

  24. I *NEVER* do anything but a custom install though showing what the options are set to for express is commendable as most installers will just do whatever they want and unfortunately a lot of people don’t use the custom install option when installing software.

  25. qq says:

    IE8 Installation: the User is in Control

  26. Rick says:

    There are a lot of lies being spread here.

    **Every** other browser makes itself the default on install.  Safari, Opera, Chrome and Firefox all check the "make [me] your default browser" in their installation screens.  Don’t believe me?  Try it.

    IE8 doesn’t even **offer** to set itself as the default on install– it’s only during FirstRun that the option is shown.

  27. Dan says:

    Robin Capper, look inside Tools / Internet Options / General / Language Settings.  What locale is set?

  28. Dan says:

    fmerletti, you’re not talking about the same thing.  boen_robot is talking about the checkbox that is shown during Firefox setup, not the popup that is shown on run if you ever switch away from Firefox as the default.

    This is all a bit of a tempest in a teacup.  Every browser does pretty much the same thing: Tries to make itself the default if you’ll let it, and makes it really easy to switch it back to the default if you start it after something else becomes the default.  But I guess it gives everyone something to talk about until Win7 comes out.  🙂

  29. boen_robot says:

    @Rick and @Dan

    Amen to that 🙂

    It’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say.

  30. hAl says:

    Now that automatic upgrades have begun I have found there to be a lot of people that have issues cause by the unregistered actxprxy.dll

    Why is Microsoft not adding that dll to be reregistered by IE8 installation.

    Advising people to reregister their dll using:

    regsvr32 actxprxy.dll

    is fine for some experienced users but unaccpetable for most common users.

  31. PC says:

    In response to JP’s posting,forced updates almost caused my computer to crash.  I have an older computer with limited disk space (that is very full-not with files but with leftovers of deleted programs that were not removed with either uninstall or remove program).  Every new update is bloated with features that many users do not need.  Before installation of an update last year, it had 1.5 Gb free.  After the update, there was less than 300 Mb free.  The space and memory used for forced updates is a waste to a regular, but not power user, like me.  At 35 Mb free, I ran Norton removal tool, and immediately had 5.2 Gb free.  Just one example of bloated and forced.

  32. wtroost says:

    These screens are the most annoying part of a fresh Windows 7 RC install.  Why are these questions even asked?  Just set it up with your defaults.

    Not to mention, after ending the wizard you end up with a confusing set of tabs open.

    P.S. Nobody wants live search by default, but I guess that’s too much too ask 😉

  33. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @hAl: Registering actxprxy.dll doesn’t do anything desirable on Vista; Vista uses a different registration mechanism, not self-registration.

    On XP, AFAIK, the installer does actually register the actxprxy.dll.

  34. hAl says:

    [quote]@hAl: Registering actxprxy.dll doesn’t do anything desirable on Vista; Vista uses a different registration mechanism, not self-registration.[/quote]

    Mayby you should tell the Microsoft support site as on there it an advised method on several knowledge base articles dealing with browser issues on Vista. For example:;en-us;902932

    It specifically states that registering dll’s trough regsvr32 works on Vista Home basic and Vista Home Premium

    [quote]On XP, AFAIK, the installer does actually register the actxprxy.dll[/quote]

    Why then would people notice changes after using registering the dll’s. Could there be something interfering with the registering of the specific dll’s on installation (like security software) or could the registering fail trough some other reason ?

  35. Mitch 74 says:

    @PC: the ‘lost space’ is actually a bunch of files used to roll back your system updates; actually a running patched system and a non-patched one, with rollbacks removed, have pretty much the same size.

    Wasted files found by software such as Norton suites (which are, themselves, Bloaat Masters) can be found in several places:

    – security patch rollback data: if your system is very old, you have a rollback for SP1, SP2 and SP3, and every and all patches in between: pretty much 6 times the size of a ‘core’ install of Windows XP (more or less 750 Mb)

    – file system log: although supposedly limited in size, this log can get huge

    – DrWatson’s log: also supposedly limited in size, it can inflate excessively

    – if you added some RAM, the hibernation file got bigger, as did the swap file. If you don’t use hibernation, disable it.

    – System Restore will take several Gb off your hard disk space. It is a good idea to limit it. Moreover, if for any reason you reinstalled Windows, many snapshots may have become stale.

    IE 8 won’t, by itself, crash your system. Actually, you’re supposed to keep more than 20% of your hard disk drive space, free: otherwise you get huge slowdowns and very severe fragmentation.

    Personally, I recommend doing a thorough cleanup and update of a system, disable System Restore (to wipe it clean), re-enable it with a smaller value, reset the file system’s journal (but then it would be more easily done with a GUI option, instead of using fsutil usn deletejournal /D c:) and call it a day.

    Last time I did that on a 5 years old PC still running from its original install, I recovered 9 Gb and divided its boot time by 3.

    An amount of HD space that makes the 10 extra MB of space IE 8 takes, quite laughable.

  36. Robin Capper says:

    Re #9584392

    Windows region is New Zealand

    Windows Language is English New Zealand

    IE Language is English New Zealand (EN-NZ)

    Site,, says "You are not in NZ".

    Queried the site where they get locale from, the response was "Install Firefox" (which works) but IE8 works too, on other machines

  37. OMG says:

    OMG we are NOT playing this stupid game again are we Microsoft?

    IE8 Better NOT make itself the default browser on install (after a FORCED upgrade from Windows).

    Absolutely UNFORGIVABLE! in this day and age.

  38. David says:

    Oddly enough, every one of the default express settings (except compatibility view) was nearly the exact opposite of what I wanted, so I went with custom.

  39. hAl says:


    A) It ain’t a forced upgrade but an upgrade you must actually agree with.

    B) The installation program does not have the express settings enabeled/checked which makes IE8 the default browser so you actually have to choose express settings and not just click on next next next next…finish.

  40. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Robin Capper: If your language/locale setting is correct in IE, my guess is that there’s simply a site bug within the Lotto site.  Unfortunately, with the response you got, it sounds like the admin isn’t interested in fixing their problem. 🙁

    If you visit what are the two language settings shown?

  41. Don says:

    Is there a way to "un-grey" the "Don’t show this update again" for IE8 so it can be checked when using the Custom update?  Several machines all show the same grey that cannot be checked and I really don’t want someone to wander into this and create complications right now.  Thanks

  42. Joe says:

    Upgraded my 2nd machine from the Windows Update process.  Now, this machine’s browser will also crash (I have another machine installed with RC1 with the same exact problem) whenever I right click on any link and select ‘Open in New Tab/Window’.  This is on just about every site.

    I’ve already tried changing the ‘protect mode’ and that doesn’t seem to fix anything.

    Anyone has any idea?

  43. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Joe: The majority of IE crashes are caused by incompatible 3rd party software.  Please turn Protected Mode back on, then see for troubleshooting steps.

  44. Gareth says:

    Very nice – but why do I still have to reboot my system for the update to complete? Firefox doesn’t make you do that.

  45. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Gareth: Internet Explorer is a component of the operating system, and contains several components (the networking stack, the HTML renderer, etc) used by tens of thousands of other programs, including other parts of the operating system.  The downside of this is that it requires a reboot to update those components.  The upside is that when you install the updates, they improve the reliability, security, performance, etc, of all of the programs that depend on those components.

  46. Joe says:

    @EricLaw.  This is on things like, right click and select open in new tab.  Same thing on most other sites.  Even on some sites that doesn’t even use Javascript, etc.

    I’ll try to go through the URL you have posted but not sure it’s going to get me anywhere since I’ve been going at this problem for several months now with no real solutions out there.

  47. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Joe: Thus far, everyone I’ve spoken to regarding crashes in the "Open in new tab" has been able to fix the problem by disabling addons and/or updating their AV programs.

  48. Stephan says:

    Is there going to be a date when this update will be forced ?

    (I would prefer all users are upgraded to ie8)

  49. csrorke says:

    I’ve been a happy Windows user since version 3.0. I like Windows. But now I’ve gone and downloaded IE8. After downloading it, I responded to the selections presented in the "Set Up Windows IE8 pop-up window. I manage six user accounts, so I’ve become pretty familiar with it. But I don’t have time to delve in deeply and learn how to use all these features right now. They may be great features; we are just too busy. So I just want to know one simple thing. HOW DO I GET IE 8 TO STOP INCESSANTLY INTERUPTING ME WITH THE "SET UP WINDOWS IE 8" POP-UP?  I thought the original idea of personal computing was that we were supposed to be able to tell the computer what to do; not that the computer should tell us when we need to learn about a particular feature. If I don’t hear about how to stop this pretty soon (and I have searched), I’m going to uninstall IE 8. So much for the user being in control.

  50. Robin Capper says:

    Re #9585996

    systemLanguage = en-nz

    userLanguage   = en-nz

    Still "not in New Zealand"

  51. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Stephan: No, upgrades to new IE versions are never forced.  IE8 will become available for all XP+ users, but they will always be in control of deciding whether or not it should install.

    @Robin: The most likely explanation is that the site is doing an IP-based GeoLocation attempt, and, from the sounds of it, failing miserably.  Changing the browser (on the same machine) should make no difference unless you’re using a different proxy server or VPN with one of the browsers.

    @csrorke: The wizard will return daily unless you make a selection.  It should take somewhere on the order of 5 seconds to click through; because I install new IE builds several times a day at Microsoft, I have clicked through this wizard a few thousand times.

    If necessary, you could use Group Policy to disable the wizard, but that will take significantly longer if you only have 6 accounts.

  52. IEBlog says:

    This post walks through the IE setup experience and the choices it offers users. There have been a bunch

  53. Gareth says:

    @EricLaw: thank you for your answer.

  54. Mibbo says:


    I’m just a stupid 13 years old swedish boy.  


    But i have thinking about this.


    Why not have All the browser in the installation? when i install i can Check the browser i wanna have on my computer.

    If i wanna have IE i check IE, if i wanna have Mozilla i check mozilla, if i wanna have opera i check opera, if i wanna have two of them i check two of them if i wanna have all i check all!


    Didn’t that sounds good?

    I Hopes so!



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