IE11 Comes to Windows 7

Contributing Editor

Typical. Within moments of posting my IE11 on Windows 8.1 review, Microsoft released the browser on Windows 7. I did hint it could happen — it was the seventh day of the eleventh month.

Should you download it? Absolutely. Even if you don’t intend switching from your default browser, you’ll still need a version of IE installed. So why not make it the fastest, most stable, standards-compliant version of Internet Explorer since, erm … IE6? (Assuming you can remember its exciting release twelve years ago. Admittedly, things went downhill after that.)

The IE11 blog states the browser is 30% faster. Given my quick benchmark tests, I suspect they’re right. Whether it’s noticeable on your favorite sites is another matter.

Head to windows.microsoft.com/ie and follow the instructions. It’ll take around ten minutes and require a reboot.

The Differences

There are several differences in the Windows 7 version of IE11. These are mostly Windows 8-specific or touch screen-related features which would not apply to the OS. The unsupported items include:

  • The Screen Orientation API and device orientation events
  • Drag and drop touch support
  • Effects batching and stroke improvements
  • Encrypted Media Extensions
  • Enhanced Protected Mode (EPM)
  • High DPI support
  • Hover touch support and link highlighting
  • Media Source Extensions
  • Phone number format recognition
  • Pinned site enhancements
  • Scrolling and zooming with touch and other inputs
  • Syncing across devices
  • TCP Connection Sharing (SPDY)

Note also that the F12 developer tools UI Responsiveness tab may be disabled if your installation of Windows 7 is not up-to-date.

Will Everyone Else Upgrade?

If you’re using IE9 or IE10 on Windows 7, I can’t think of any reason to keep it. You’re unlikely to encounter the legacy application incompatibilities you may have experienced in IE7, 8 or 9. Those using IE10 should eventually receive an automatic update.

Windows Vista users cannot upgrade beyond IE9 but the OS is dying fairly rapidly and is currently used by just 5% of web users.

However, Windows XP retains a 20% OS market share. Around half use Internet Explorer and cannot upgrade beyond version 8. Numbers are dropping and should fall faster when Microsoft ceases support in 2014. XP users can also switch to Chrome, Firefox or Opera although none of the vendors will support XP indefinitely.

Within twelve months, we’re likely to see Internet Explorer’s user base split in two: those with the latest version and those with IE8. Not a perfect scenario but IE8 rarely causes significant development woes. Perhaps those users will fizzle out when they discover they can’t play Grand Theft Call of Duty Birds in their WebGL-less browser!

Presuming you can upgrade, stop reading this and install IE11

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  • Anonymous

    As it happens, I installed Windows 8.1 a little earlier and IE11 comes with it now. Not sure I’m impressed by having pretty much all my add-ons disabled, though. Particularly my security choices. I can only assume it’s up to those vendors to make their software compatible. Unitl they do, IE11 won’t be my default browser.

    • Anonymous

      Did you have many IE add-ons? Any useful ones? I struggled to find any!

      I don’t recall having to reset my IE preferences during the 8.1 upgrade although I did receive another EU browser choice screen – even though IE wasn’t my default browser. It seems everyone has had differing upgrade experiences!

  • foodspot

    Thanks for the info.. i love this post

  • Anonymous

    Add-ons that have been disabled due to incompatibilty include Web Accessibility Toolbar, 1Password (I think I can fix that one), ZoneAalarm, Spybot. Disabling my security doesn’t make me want to use IE11.

    • Anonymous

      That’s not good. It’ll be interesting to hear what the add-on vendors say about it…

  • Candyce

    Hmm… I don’t think every Internet Explorer 6 user would update their Internet Explorer 6 to 8…

  • unNonymous

    Soon only IE11 will matter.

    • Anonymous

      I want that to be true but I don’t think it will be … not in IE11′s lifetime anyway.

  • Max

    I rather like this version, better than before. Don’t know if I’d switch back altogether as I like my chromium browsers (chrome, torch browser), but still a nice improvement for IE.

  • [anonymous]

    I never know when these IE upgrades come out. I find out when I randomly come across a website that compares the latest versions of all browsers or talks about compatibility. I then quickly look things up to make sure it’s real, and sure enough, it is. Just like last year with IE10, I now have a knock-around browser, when not on Safari, that is 30% faster with no hidden annoyances that most large browser updates bring.