Ask Leo: Can I remove Internet Explorer if I never use it?


By Leo Notenboom

Because I use Firefox 100% of the time, what do I do with Internet Explorer? You indicated earlier that it’s best not to actually delete it because it’s still needed in a minimal way (Windows updates use it). For security and privacy reasons, what can be done to render it more safe? Should browser helpers be deleted, security settings set to a level higher than Medium, or ActiveX items and JavaScript functions deleted? I no longer tend to IE (out of sight, out of mind). Any comments on minimizing exposure to malware and viruses while keeping the simplest function of receiving Windows updates would be appreciated. IE seems to always be the target for miscreants and I would love not to fall prey to them.

It’s needed in more than a “minimal way”, so not only is it best not to delete it, it’s critical that you do not.

Portions of what you and I consider Internet Explorer are actually part of Windows itself and would cause portions of Windows to fail (more than just the Windows Update website). In fact, it could quite possibly cause other applications that depend on the functionality that those parts of IE-in-Windows provides to fail as well.

What IE brings to the table

The primary job of Internet Explorer, like most web browsers, is to display HTML encoded web pages.

The problem is that it’s not just web pages that are encoded in HTML these days. Many applications use HTML as part of their user interface, their documentation, or their online help system.

To that end, the core HTML rendering engine in Internet Explorer is actually functionality used and provided by Windows for other applications to use.

That means that you can’t just yank it out.

In fact, if you try by going to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, Turn Windows features on off, and de-selecting Internet Explorer, Windows will inform you of the likely consequences:

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6 thoughts on “Ask Leo: Can I remove Internet Explorer if I never use it?”

  1. I have an 8 y.o. Dell running XP Home and I upgraded to IE8 2 years ago. Never had any trouble because of it, but it is as far as I can go. IE9 is not available for XP. But I am not ready to buy an new computer until this one quits working, and so far, it is still running smoothly. I also like to use my Outlook Express 6, which will probably continue to work for me as long as I run XP.

  2. If you get a Euro copy of Win7, I believe you can avoid Internet Explorer.

    Or if you can find a copy of Tiny XP, it has I.E. removed, Outlook Express removed, Net Removed, & Windows Media player.

    With these easily malware targeted portions of WinXP removed, TinyXP becomes a very good operating system. You will find it is quick and responsive, and flies on any internet connection, remaining under the drive by malware instillation radar.

    Tiny XP was created to provide evident to the European court system Microsoft was not telling the truth under oath that IE, Outlook Express, net, and Windows Media were embedded and could not be removed from WinXP.


  3. Im using XP and IE 8 on my old desktop. The latest update stole my homepage and replaced it with an MS homepage. I cannot remake my own homepage the default because it also stole my administrator rights!! Im furious about this; how can I restore my own rights to my own sole user computer. It has also taken over other settings which I now need permission to reset eg font sizes.

  4. Hello Leo. I recently rescued my wife’s computer from a Trojan Downloader virus by, amongst other things, reinstalling her XP which included Windows Explorer 7. I was then invited to install Explorer 8 which refused to function with XP. Now I can’t reinstall Explorer 7 because the XP wants an Administrator password. I’ve never installed an Admin password but as well as that, why didn’t it ask for one before it allowed me to reinstall XP? The machine seems to function quite well but has problems with Windows Security updates. Is there a way out of the Security and Admin bind?

  5. IE is technically embedded within the OS, contrary to law in many countries outside the US as it means you can’t remove it. So can you live without it? YES. can you remiove it? No, M$ has n[made that impossible by bad system design. The EU held they had to offer alternative browsers but M$ said thay had to include IE anyway else the OS would not work. SO they should have been made to remiove ALL of IE and replace the essential elements with separate verifiable and secure code. Not impossible but contrary to M$ corporate thinking.

  6. This is one of the reasons I describe IE as the “least” secure browser. Because it is embedded in the operating system, a compromise of the browser is a potential compromise of the operating system as well.

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