Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 has been released and is now being rolled out as part of the normal automatic Windows security update process. Unfortunately for many, the installation of IE8 has actually broken the browser and made it useless. My younger brother called me this morning with this problem, and I asked him to come to the office so I can get a firsthand look.
He has a Gateway notebook that is about two years running Windows XP.
This mysterious problem of IE8 not working has been echoed by several TechRepublic members to me in private messages and in the Community Forums. I have not pinned down the exact cause, but in my brother's situation, the problem was frustrating on several levels.
First, the symptoms of this problem don't allow for much troubleshooting analysis. Internet Explorer 8 starts as if everything is fine until it tries to load a Web page. At that point it freezes into a continuous connecting mode and stops responding to commands. There is no error code or other indication of how to correct or proceed.
The second frustrating problem involves the Control Panel | Add Remove Programs applet. The installation of IE8 on my brother's PC apparently did not progress enough to actually be listed in the tool to be removed or uninstalled.
There were two choices at this point: forget Internet Explorer and use Mozilla Firefox exclusively or uninstall IE8 and return to Internet Explorer 7.
For the sake of knowledge and this blog, we opted for choice number two, but my guess is that most will opt for Firefox, and I can't say that I blame them at this point.
However, for our purposes, here is how we had to proceed.
The first thing I had to do was get the installation file for the Windows XP version of Internet Explorer 8. Once that was downloaded, I reinstalled it to the Gateway notebook. The process involved about 30 minutes and two restarts to complete.
My hope was that this process would install a working Internet Explorer 8. It did not. IE8 behaved the same as before: it would not load a Web page and stopped responding to commands. However, the most important thing was accomplished because Internet Explorer 8 was now on the list of Add Remove Programs in the Control Panel.
I used that entry to uninstall IE8 and return Internet Explorer to the previous version. A few minutes and a reboot later, IE7 was back and running as expected.
This has been my experience, or at least that of my brother's, but I am wondering what your experience has been. I don't know if this is confined to Windows XP or if there is some other factor involved. I only know that this is certainly not the user experience Microsoft was looking for.
On my own personal computers, I have upgraded my notebook running Vista to Internet Explorer 8 without any problems at all. But I have not taken the chance on another PC yet. In addition to my brother's story, I have had several reports of IE8 not working at all after installation, which gives me pause.
What about you? Did you get a bad Internet Explorer 8 install? How did you fix the problem? Did you go back to IE7? Did you just drop Internet Explorer and make Firefox your default browser? Let us know what is going on out in the real world.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.