I recently had my computer in for repair and the tech removed my Chrome. He said I should only use IE because otherwise Windows Updates and MSE are not protecting my PC. He said you have to use IE for these. Considering the recent huge flaw in IE, I reinstalled Chrome. Is he saying that if I do my Windows updates from Chrome browser, that they aren’t really updating anything? I have a laptop, using Windows 7.
[[To get the scoop, I asked Windows expert and former Microsoft systems engineer Leo Notenboom (of AskLeo! fame) his take on this. Here’s his response]]
I’m afraid your technician either misunderstands the situation or perhaps he miscommunicated what he meant.
While Internet Explorer does occupy what I’d call a “special” place in Windows, that doesn’t mean you’re required to run it and only it, forsaking all others.
Quite the contrary: Use whatever browser you like.
Internet Explorer suffers from a bad reputation in many circles, mostly due to security and compatibility issues in previous versions. While the current version is now a solid browser that compares well against the others, that bad reputation remains pretty tough to overcome. The net result is that many people avoid IE just on principle.
Popular competitors to IE include browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. They’re all fine browsers, and I really have nothing today that would cause me to wave you off of using any of them. Personally I happen to use Chrome, but that’s just a personal preference for its overall feel and performance.
So let me be extra clear: there is no requirement that you use Internet Explorer in order to keep your system up to date or your anti-malware tools running. None.
I think that there are two potentially confusing issues at play here: visiting the Windows Update web site, and the inability to completely uninstall Internet Explorer.
In some version of Windows one way to get updates is to visit the Windows Update web site. Yes, it’s very likely that if you do this you’ll need to do it using Internet Explorer. The Windows Update website relies on an ActiveX control to do its job which implies using Internet Explorer. But that’s the only time you’d be required to use IE.
Newer versions of Windows will instead direct you to the Windows Update application on the Start menu, no browser involved.
If you configure Updates in Control Panel to happen automatically then you won’t even need to visit Windows Update or run the Windows Update application to keep your machine up-to-date. It’ll all happen automatically, no IE required.
The other confusing issue is that Internet Explorer can’t really be removed from your system.
Parts of Internet Explorer are actually components of Windows itself. Were you able to remove IE completely some portions of Windows would actually stop working. Most procedures that “uninstall” IE actually only remove the shortcuts to it and little else.
Whether you ever fire up Internet Explorer or not, it’s Windows Update that will keep things up to date for you.
Windows Update will update all of your installed Windows components – including Internet Explorer. You want to make sure that all the software on your machine is as up to date as possible, so as to avoid any security or other issues that might be discovered.
The same goes for Microsoft Security Essentials, aka MSE. Whether or not you run Internet Explorer, MSE – as long as it’s installed and configured to do so – will continue to scan your computer for malware. It, too, leverages Windows Update to get not only its own program updates, but updates to its database of malware definitions.
So if there’s anything you really need to make sure to have configured to run it’s Windows Update. The good news is that the default is to have it configured for automatic updates, and Windows will start to remind you if things for some reason aren’t set up to do so.
So, go ahead and install and use Chrome, if you like, and use it in good health. Doing so is not impacting your systems ability to stay up-to-date or secure.