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Internet Explorer add-ons are a common cause of problems that are incorrectly blamed on IE itself. I'll show you how to disable IE add-ons.

I had asked you about a problem that I was having with Internet Explorer. Your response was to “disable add-ons.”

Huh? I have no idea what that means. Please explain.

Fair enough. It's another one of those things that I take somewhat for granted.

Ultimately, many problems with Internet Explorer aren't caused by IE at all. They're caused by software that's added to IE to extend its functionality.

Not surprisingly, those are called add-ons.

They sometimes show up without warning, but they're easily dealt with in later versions of IE.

Add-ons, add-ins, plug-ins ... and toolbars

Regardless of what you call them - add-ons, add-ins, plug-ins, or something else - software can be added to IE by third parties. Sometimes they're obvious, as in add-ons that add toolbars to your browser, but sometimes, they're more stealthy.

IE add-ons can come from many places. They could be:

  • Add-ons that you specifically request and install.

  • Add-ons that are installed as part of some other software that you install.

  • Add-ins that are installed by malicious software.

While you might think that the latter is the scariest - and it probably is - add-ons from any source can potentially cause problems due to simple bugs, lack of thorough testing, or even unexpected incompatibility with other add-ons.

Regardless of the reason, disabling add-ons is the first place to start when diagnosing behavior and crashing problems with Internet Explorer.

Add-on Manager

In IE 9, click the gear icon and then Mange add-ons:

Manage Add-ons menu item

The add-on manager defaults to showing you a list of all installed Toolbars and Extensions:

IE Add-on managet

To disable an add-on, just right-click it and click Disable from the resulting pop-up menu:

Diable add-on menu item

Conversely, if the add-on is disabled and you want to enable it, right-click the disabled item and then click Enable in the resulting menu.

What do I disable?

If I'm diagnosing a crash or serious misbehavior problem in IE, I start by disabling everything. That quickly tells me whether the problem is related to an add-on or not.

You can then start enabling add-ons until the misbehavior reappears, and when it does, you'll have identified the guilty add-on.

If you are not diagnosing a problem but simply trying to trim Internet Explorer's memory footprint or increase its speed, then I recommend that you:

  • Disable everything that you're not sure of. Leave enabled only those add-ons that you know or feel you need.

  • As you use Internet Explorer thereafter, enable only those add-ons that are required to provide functionality that you need.

  • Leave everything else disabled.

Finally, if you suspect malware, disable everything that you don't recognize and do an internet search for the names that you find listed.

And of course, be sure to run up-to-date anti-malware tools. IE add-ons are one way that machines can become infected.

Article C4987 - November 17, 2011 « »

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.

Not what you needed?

November 22, 2011 11:04 AM

Or you can do Start, Run and type in iexplore.exe -extoff. I've saved it as a shortcut on my desktop so when IE8 in all it's glory starts giving me fits, I can just click on the icon and run it w/o the add-ons. Love your Windows safety book, by the way!

Robin Clay
November 22, 2011 1:11 PM

"In IE 9, click the gear icon "

Oh ! So THAT's what it is ! I thought it was a flower.... I've never used it !

Eugene Slaughter
November 23, 2011 1:52 AM

Thanks for the educating article on add-ons; In managing add-ons in the left pane "add-on types is a catagory ""tracking protection" which needs explanaton. It offers an option to download a tracking list from the internet and this takesyou to a site "Internet Explorer Gallery" which has several lists to choose from. When would you use this option and how do you select the best list; also does ths block sites on the list who do not respond to a do not track signal?

December 5, 2011 7:26 AM

Terri wrote: "Or you can do Start, Run and type in iexplore.exe -extoff."

I think Win7 has a way to launch IE without extensions and and-ons. I think it's under Accessories. (System Tools, perhaps?)

Mark J
December 5, 2011 12:54 PM

As far as I know, the only way to run IE without extensions is with the iexplore.exe -extoff command.

If you want to access that without using Run, you can right click on a copy of the IE shortcut and select Properties from the pulldown. Then under the General tab where is says Target, add -extoff to the end of the line so that it says something like "C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" -extoff

This shortcut will now run IE without any extensions. You may want to create a copy of the original IE shortcut as you'd probably would want to run IE with the extensions at least sometimes.

December 28, 2011 11:10 AM

How do I do this in windows xp professional

Depends on the version of IE, but in general it's pretty much the same as outlined in this article.
December 28, 2011 12:40 PM

It would be the same. It depends on the version of IE.

November 12, 2012 3:07 PM

It sounds like there's no down-side to disabling add-ons :) that right?

So, if I disable all of the add-ons, will I be prompted by certain web pages to ENABLE them when they're needed? Will it be obvious which ones I want to keep enabled?

Unfortunately the answer to most questions is mostly no. You'll lose whatever functionality those addons brought to the browswer. You may, but probably will not be prompted when they're needed. And some will be obvious, others will not be. Sorry, but it's just not that clear-cut a thing.

Jacqi Templeton
December 20, 2012 3:06 PM

I did read the article, and I'm wondering if an IE addon could be causing my problem. I'm no longer able to hear audio on youtube, when using IE. It appears to be muted, but when I click on the x (mute) to toggle it, the x does not go away. I can hear anything that is NOT from You Tube, so it's not my speakers, and I used to be able to hear YouTube using IE. Could this be caused by an IE add on? (I CAN hear YouTube audio when using Google Chrome, but I prefer IE for everything else, and it's a pain to have to be switching back and forth.)

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