Microsoft Suggests Ending IE 11 Before It Gets Disabled
Organizations waiting for Microsoft to "permanently disable" the Internet Explorer 11 browser should just end it beforehand, if possible.
The IE 11 browser can be removed by using a Group Policy option called "Disable Internet Explorer 11 as a standalone browser." This option was described in a Microsoft document dated Aug. 31, 2022, which was cited in this Wednesday Microsoft announcement on the topic.
Microsoft has already dropped product support for IE 11 in certain Windows versions that follow the semiannual channel update model. IE 11 is unsupported as of June 15, 2022 for Windows 10 semiannual channel releases, for instance. Microsoft plans to permanently disable IE 11 for those Windows 10 users via its Windows Update service, but it'll happen in a phased-approach manner, varying in its timing across organizations.
IE 11 Lives On in IE Mode
Windows 10 long-term servicing channel users, on the other hand, have IE 11 support in the form of an "IE Mode" emulation capability until Jan. 9, 2029. A Microsoft FAQ on the topic includes a table that shows such IE Mode support nuances.
Microsoft's Wednesday announcement was largely an exhortation toward organizations that they don't have to wait for Windows Update to remove the IE 11 browser. They can actively end it via Group Policy if they think things won't break.
The announcement described the Windows Update removal process as instituting a "redirection phase," where users are directed toward using the Microsoft Edge browser instead of IE 11. This gradual approach is conceived as making things easier for organizations that are stuck on IE 11 technologies.
"Given its gradual nature, the redirection phase is optimal for those organizations who are not entirely confident yet of the state of IE retirement readiness across their estate," the Wednesday announcement indicated.
The Edge browser can emulate old IE behaviors via Microsoft's IE Mode capability, if IE Mode has been configured beforehand.
It's IE Mode support that IT pros need to track if they have a need to maintain the older IE browser technologies. In a slight of hand, Microsoft switched IE support from being based on the Windows OS lifecycle to being based on how long IE Mode is supported per OS. The table in Microsoft's FAQ is the true guide on gauging such support.
Ditch IE 11 If You Can
Microsoft is "strongly" advising organizations ready to dispense with IE 11 to use the "Disable Internet Explorer 11 as a standalone browser" Group Policy option to get rid of the browser.
Here's how that advice was phrased:
Instead of waiting for the Windows Update to happen at a future date, we strongly encourage those organizations that have set up IE mode and that feel ready to transition off IE to use the Disable IE Policy to control when and how IE is disabled. We suggest first rolling out the Disable IE Policy to small sets of devices to reduce risk, should there be any hidden pockets of IE dependent sites, and then rolling out to your entire organization once you've determined any missed sites. Since many organizations have end of year IT freezes and holiday time off, we recommend applying the Disable IE Policy by November 1, 2022 to avoid surprises and business disruption in case IE dependent websites were missed.
The problems encountered after ditching IE 11 could be very specific and unexpected, though, for organizations.
For instance, one person described having problems adding videos in PowerPoint after disabling IE 11, per this Feb. 9, 2021 Microsoft forum complaint. A Microsoft spokesperson responding to that complaint had suggested back then that "for the purpose of playing videos in PowerPoint, Internet Explorer 11 is required to be on your computer," adding that there was "no replacement for now."
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.