Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Internet Explorer is a browser but it's so tightly a part of Windows that it ends up being much more. As a result, you probably want those updates.

I never use Internet Explorer or Outlook Express, and therefore have to do my windows updates manually. Many of the updates have to do with IE, Outlook Express, etc. and are considered 'critical'. Do I really need these updates?

Oh, my, yes. At least for Internet Explorer.

You may think you're not using it, but you are. Just not where you expect.

Outlook Express you're welcome to write off, I think. If you don't use it and you're certain it'll never get run by accident, then you're pretty safe to ignore those updates. However I also see no harm in taking them, and that's what I do.

Internet Explorer (IE) is another mater entirely.

We think of IE as this program we run when we want to browse the internet. And so it is; it remains the most popular browser on the internet.

"... even if you don't use Internet Explorer as your browser, be sure to take all the updates for it."

But it's also much more than that.

Or rather, I should say that parts of IE are much more than that.

One of the early controversies about Windows and IE was Microsoft's claim that it could not be removed, that it was too deeply integrated into the operating system. And so it is ... what we call Internet Explorer actually includes components that are considered a part of Windows itself.

And therein lies the problem: those components within Windows are used by other applications besides Internet Explorer. I believe that the HTML rendering engine might be the biggest and most obvious component used by other programs to display HTML, but there's nothing that says that's the only such component.

So when you fail to take an update to IE you run the risk of not updating some component of IE that's being used by other programs. And even though you don't use IE as your browser, other programs you do use may well be relying on those components.

So my recommendation should be fairly obvious by this point: even if you don't use Internet Explorer as your browser, be sure to take all the updates for it. You probably are using IE in ways you hadn't realized.

Again, this is exactly what I do.

Article C3300 - February 24, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Nicholas Gimbrone
March 1, 2008 3:57 PM

And indeed, the most obvious is that IE is typically the path to doing MS software updates for all of the components you do use...

Cathy McClintock
April 17, 2009 11:08 AM

My computer is showing dll errors since windows updated automatically. Internet explorer has been nothing but a problem for me. what can I do about the errors/

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