Open links in the Windows 8 desktop Internet Explorer every time

If you run Windows 8 on a desktop PC you are going to want to tweak Internet Explorer to avoid the Metro version of the browser.

There are many new features of Microsoft Windows 8 that will be great for tablets and touch devices but will be annoying as all get out for desktop users. This is a major complaint among many of the Windows 8 naysayers. However, many of these little annoyances can be avoided with a simple configuration tweak. If you use Internet Explorer on a desktop system, this should be one of the first adjustments you make in Windows 8.

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Metro IE

By default, when you click on a web link in the Windows 8 Metro UI, Internet Explorer will open that web page in the Metro UI version of IE. This opens the browser page in full screen with no navigation buttons, address bars, etc., similar to what you see in Figure A.

Figure A

No address bar or search box -- this is not for me, thank you very much.
In some cases this may be fine with you, but for many desktop users this is not what we want. To configure Internet Explorer to open all web links in the desktop version, as shown in Figure B, you have to make a change in Internet Properties.

Figure B

Switch to a Desktop Internet Explorer.

Internet Properties

The Internet Properties configuration window in Windows 8 is remarkably similar to Windows 7. You can get to the configuration several ways.

On the Start Screen, type "control panel" and press Enter. On the Control Panel screen, Figure C, click the View Network Status and Tasks link to get the Network and Sharing Center screen, shown in Figure D, from there click the Internet Options link in the bottom left corner.

Figure C

Open the Control Panel.

Figure D

Access the Network and Sharing Center.

Or you can take this shortcut: On the Start Screen, type "inetcpl.cpl" and press the Enter key.

Once you get to the Internet Properties screen, click the Programs tab (Figure E).

Figure E

Open the Internet Properties -- Program tab.
The first section on the Program tab deals with Internet Explorer. Click the drop-down menu and change the entry to read Always in Internet Explorer on the Desktop, as in Figure F.

Figure F

Change to Always in Internet Explorer on the Desktop.

Note, you can also specify that you want Metro UI tiles to open in IE on the desktop by clicking the check box. When you are finished, click Apply and then OK.

Presumably, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and other browsers will operate in a similar fashion when (if) they release Windows 8/Metro versions of those web browsers.

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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,, and TechRepublic.


The 'choose how you open links" is grayed out and I can't change anything. Any ideas?

Ken the IT guy
Ken the IT guy

Not even a Back button? Who thought that was a good idea? I'll be putting a Win8 test box together pretty soon and will definitely be using this tip. Thanks. (off topic) Speaking of "who thought that was a good idea?" What's the point of Category View? From Vista on, I've changed Control Panel to Small Icon View and save 1 to 3 clicks for everything I want to do. Your example here took you 2 clicks from the Control Panel to get where you wanted to go, where as Icon view would have been 1. Categorizing is fine, but not to the point of gross inefficiency.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I really want the flexibility of a desktop web browser most of the time; the only exception might be the electronic version of my local newspaper. What is your preference?

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