Windows optimize

Remove Internet Explorer and more with the Windows Features tool

The Windows 7 version of the Windows Features tool allows you to remove more than just optional features.
The ability to disable certain features in Microsoft Windows has been a part of the operating system for a long time. For example, the Windows XP Add/Remove Programs utility contained the Windows Components Wizard, which gave you the ability to remove a very limited number of components from the operating system, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

In XP, the Windows Components allowed you to remove a very limited number of components from the operating system.

In Windows Vista, the utility was renamed Windows Features and the user interface was streamlined with a single tree structure, as shown in Figure B. And while it allowed you to disable more than Windows XP did (mainly because it had more optional features), it still did not allow you to remove features that Microsoft considered main features of the operating system.

Figure B

In Windows Vista, the utility was renamed Windows Features.
However, the Windows 7 version of the Windows Features tool allows you to remove more than just optional features. For instance, you can remove such core features as Windows Media Player or Windows Search, as shown in Figure C.

To launch the Windows Features tool, just click the Start button, type Windows Features in the Start Search box, and select Turn Windows Features On or Off from the resulting list.

Figure C

Windows 7's Windows Features tool allows you to remove more than just optional features.
You can even remove Internet Explorer 8 (or Internet Explorer 9), as shown in Figure D if you want.

However, as you can see, when you remove one of the core features like Internet Explorer, you see a message that warns you that some features in Windows might be affected. However, in most cases any program that uses the Internet Explorer HTML rendering engine to display information should continue to work just fine. Click the Learn More link to get more detailed information on what to expect after disabling the feature.

Figure D

You can even remove Internet Explorer 8.

This means that if you would rather use FireFox or Chrome as your main Web browser and never have to see the Internet Explorer icon you can just clear the Internet Explorer 8 check box to turn it off. If you would rather use Nero to burn your DVDs, you can clear the Windows DVD Maker check box. If you don't have a need for Windows Media Center, you can turn it off. If you prefer iTunes, disable Windows Media Player. And there's more that you can remove. Hate Gadgets? Just clear the Windows Gadget Platform check box and never see them again. Want to standardize on the PDF format? Clear the XPS check boxes.

Traversing the list

The list of items in the Windows Features tree is quite expansive. In fact, there are more than 100 items in the full tree -- too many to list and describe here. But don't worry. Many of the item names are self-explanatory, and those that are not, at least hint at their purpose. Fortunately, every item is accompanied by pop-ups that provide brief descriptions and appear when you hover over the item. If that isn't enough, you can always Google the item name and see what turns up.

What exactly does Turn Off mean?

As you can imagine, turning off is not the same as uninstalling. And, since the feature must be installed in order for you to be able to turn it off, this is not the same as picking and choosing during Setup.

In fact, when a feature's check box is cleared in the Windows Feature list, it is not available for use. This means that it will not appear on the Start menu or anywhere else in the operating system. Furthermore, the files (binaries and data) are not loaded by the operating system even though they remain on the hard disk.

For example, if you turn off Internet Explorer, you won't see its icon on the taskbar, the Start menu, or the desktop. And, when you try to open a website or view web content, you'll see an error or nothing will happen unless you install another browser.

The advantage of turning off an installed feature as opposed to uninstalling it is that if, in the future, you change your mind, the feature can easily be turned back on without having to search for a Windows Installation CD.

Some applets not included

Before you get too excited, while you can turn off such core features as I described here, other things such as Notepad, WordPad, Calculator, and Paint are not among the features you can turn off and will stay where they are. Bummer!

A potential problem

While it doesn't happen very often, an issue may occur in the operating system that renders the Windows Features tool inoperable. If that happens, you'll see that the Windows Features dialog box comes up, but it is empty. Microsoft is aware of the problem and has posted two methods that you can use to rectify the problem in the Microsoft Support article 931712.

What's your take?

Now that you know how the Windows Features tool works, will you use it to turn off certain items? Which items will you turn off? Have you used the Windows Features tool before? If so, what was your experience? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

32 comments
rgjr61
rgjr61

I was just too hopeful when I read this article. Most of the features on the list I either do want/need or am not sure about were already "disabled". The one I was excited about, IE, is not on the list and I am presuming it's due to my version of Vista? Robert

bpsanborn
bpsanborn

Greg, I would love to have web place or wiki that would explain what the features are, where they are appropriate, and what the side effects might be. I know it's asking a lot. Maybe this info is already on line somewhere. Thanks for all your great work. I always read your articles.

amendez52
amendez52

Excellent and very useful piece of information. I will definitely be utilizing it in the future. I will be exploring it to learn more about it... Thanks!

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

I prefer Firefox for my family. Firefox is way more customizable and allows me install a common user interface with many of the Firefox protections not available in Chrome or IExplorer (like AdBlock). You are not an expert on everything, stick to what you are good at and excel. The Eagle does not need to burrow, the Rabbit does not need flying lessons. Note: this is NOT Un-Install, simply pack-up and not using (big difference between putting Christmas lights away and throw them out).

deICERAY
deICERAY

could not find that in a search! Thanks anyway.

deICERAY
deICERAY

Thanks - very good to know - still I would recommend not uninstalling IE, as some things just require it - just don't use it is you can avoid it, but many times having it available kept me going when Firefox failed. Now search, indexing and other services are better served elsewhere, so that's great.

CMLOtt
CMLOtt

I use Firefox as my default browser, but on some Microsoft update sites, MS refuses to acknowledge anything other than IE. Does anybody know what the pattern is, and what the MS logic is about this? Is this just a residual of MS monopoly mentality, or is the deep embedding of IE into the operating system a real factor, as opposed to an "excuse?"

mfa
mfa

I use Firefox most of the time, but do find web pages occasionally that only work properly with IE. I'd love a feature where you could right-click on a link and get an "Open with" option listing all installed browsers.

eotterbacher
eotterbacher

I need to use Alt-Drag to highlight a multi-line block of text, but Word 2007 insists that Alt-Drag brings up the Research window (which I never use). This worked in earlier Word versions. I have tried everything I can find online on how to disable this. Sometimes it is briefly disabled, but it always comes back, sometimes in as little as one use. How can I disable it forever?

verd
verd

I will keep IE as it works fine BUT How do I turn off or remove Google?? As they are UNAMERICAN They are spies for the criminal government we are under how about an article on how to remove Google from the Internet USE STARTPAGE.COM instead

TG2
TG2

Would like to know what happens when you "turn off" Windows Search. It would be nice if the entire search garbage microsoft created could be turned off.. I can't find the words for how stupid it seems that I can create a new text file, or any type of file, and attempt to "search" in that exact same folder a minute later, and yet it still does not search the local directory first ..

bobw
bobw

I have a wireless printer connected to my router, maybe it could work with other b. than ie... HP have a gadget (print icon) that you can had to your tool bar and it works great with any browser.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

Is it possible to manually call the applications that have been turned off? If I browse to the appropriate directory and double click on iexplorer.exe will it launch?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Greg, you asked the question, "What exactly does 'Turn off' mean?" Mark, you commented that you've used the tool to 'remove it on several personal machines." I think you should explore what 'Remove Internet Explorer' means, since the described procedure won't 'remove' it. 'Disable', 'turn off' 'hide icons'; any of those apply but it's still going to be there. Actually removing it is impossible in W7 and will remain so in W8. I expect more precise terminology around here.

coopdeville
coopdeville

As far as I know 7 is set up to print through ie, and unless ie is your default browser you can't print. Does that make any sense?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I don't use Internet Explorer anymore, so I have used this tool to remove it on several personal machines. What integrated application will you remove from Windows?

Run5k
Run5k

@ACobb-at-Cisco, the AdBlockPlus functionality is actually available in IE9 as an Add-on within the Tracking Protection sub-section. In contrast, I prefer Internet Explorer 9 for my family because it's more secure and Firefox is still too much of a resource hog, although the legendary memory leaks have improved since 7.x was released. Also, Firefox won't automatically update/patch itself unless you have full admin privileges on the local machine. With IE9, that isn't an issue.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Try reposting this in the 'Q&A' forum. The 'Discussion' forum is for matters of general discussion, not specific problems in search of a solution. The 'Water Cooler' is for non-technical discussions. You can submit a question to 'Q&A' here: http://www.techrepublic.com/forum/questions/post?tag=mantle_skin;content There are TR members who specifically seek out problems in need of a solution. Although there is some overlap between the forums, you'll find more of those members in 'Q&A' than in 'Discussions' or 'Water Cooler'. Be sure to use the voting buttons to provide your feedback. Voting a '+' does not necessarily mean that a given response contained the complete solution to your problem, but that it served to guide you toward it. This is intended to serve as an aid to those who may in the future have a problem similar to yours. If they have a ready source of reference available, perhaps won't need to repeat questions previously asked and answered. If a post did contain the solution to your problem, you can also close the question by marking the helpful post as "The Answer".

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

Heeeyyy! I know you. You're the same guy that said putting fluoride in the water was a commie trick!

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

All you need do is set that as your Start Page in Infernal Exploder the same way that you set Google as your Home Page. After all Google by default is not your Home Page in IE it's MSN. To set your desired Home Page just enter the Address you want to use and when the Page opens left click on Tools and from the drop down menu Left Click on Internet Options and when the next window opens left click on the Use Current Tab and that is your Home Page. If you have installed the Google Tool Bar again not something you have when you first load Windows you can go to the Add Remove Programs in the Control Panel and uninstall It or in Infernal Exploder you can simply left click on the View Option and from the Drop Down Menu highlight Tool Bar and untick Google Toolbar if you don't want to uninstall it. OK I know that George Bush wasn't everyones favorite guy but I hardly consider what he did as Criminal, and after all Free Enterprise and gouging as much as possible from the [b]"Dumb Punter"[/b] is the American Way isn't it? So I find it very hard to understand the comment that Google is UnAmerican when they are doing what every American Free Enterprise Company wants to do. If you mean that Barrack Obama and his Government are Criminal aren't they the ones who are pushing for Legislation to stop what Google wants to do here? So if they are the baddies here and they are the ones attempting to stop Google and companies of their ilk in their tracks should not they be prevented? If they are what you call [b]"Criminal Government"[/b] surely? Sorry but I just don't understand you with that bit it seems stupid to me. Oh and just think on this I find it far worse than anything Google has yet done. :0 http://techland.time.com/2012/02/17/how-target-knew-a-high-school-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-parents/ Col

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

This is the second time I have seen this claim of "Un-American" made in the forums. Would you mind explaining how you come to this conclusion?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Simple: don't go to their web sites. You may not like them, but millions of others do.

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

Since YOU installed it why don't YOU uninstall it.

PeterM42
PeterM42

There was a fundamental flaw in XP whereby it would by default NOT search documents of a known type (ie: MOST documents!!) The following registry tweak fixed it in NT 5.1 (XP), but I don't know if it would apply to NT6.0 (Vista) or NT 6.1 ("Windows 7"): Create a new DWORD value, or modify the existing value, called "FilterFilesWithUnknownExtensions" and set it according to the value data below. System Key: [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\ContentIndex] Value Name: FilterFilesWithUnknownExtensions Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value) Value Data: (0 = default, 1 = all file types)

Slayer_
Slayer_

But I have only seen it with IE. You can turn off IE but programs that have IE integrated continue to work, Example, Steam.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

... that would work as all the DLLs and any other associated files would not present. Chances are that you would encounter an error.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

In the What exactly does Turn Off mean? section I did say: "As you can imagine, turning off is not the same as uninstalling... Furthermore, the files (binaries and data) are not loaded by the operating system even though they remain on the hard disk." I suppose I could have been more succinct and reworded the paragraph to say something like: As you can imagine, turning off is not the same as uninstalling. In fact, when a features check box is cleared in the Windows Feature list, it will not be available for use even though the files (binaries and data) remain on the hard disk. This means that the removed applicaton will not appear on the Start menu or anywhere else in the user interface. Furthermore, the files (binaries and data) are not loaded by the operating system. Would that have been more clear?

CMLOtt
CMLOtt

Not my experience in either XP or 7. IE is available in both machines, but not the default in either. I have absolutely no problems with printing from any application for which printing is appropriate. PDFs, jpegs, documents (MS word, Wordperfect, Notepad, Powerpoint, Palm, Excel, QuattroPro, Access, Paradox, ...), websites all work as expected. I don't use Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, so I can't comment on printing from them.

Branch.Archer
Branch.Archer

My default browser is Fire Fox and I've never had a problem printing. Granted, I've not tried the "removal" from the article yet, just not ie as default.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I think he means the ideas upon which America was founded: Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, property rights, limited government (one that doesn't try to manage every aspect of your life), etc. For years the US government has been getting more intrusive (not just under the current administration, but it certainly has accelerated). Google collects all kinds of information about where you go on the Web and then targets you with ads. Who knows what else they do with that data. And they are not entirely altruistic as the "Great Firewall of China" thing proves. It seems they have abandoned their "Do no evil" mantra. Google is not going to be "removed from the Internet" but you don't have to use it. He appears to be right about Startpage. They even have a proxy server you can use to be completely anonymous. Firefox has an add-on for them which I have installed. He could have said it in a less wild-eyed, fanatical way.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Replacing the word 'Remove' in the title with something more technically accurate - 'Turn Off' or 'Disable'. Don't even use the word 'remove' except to acknowledge (as you did) that it can't be done. IE is embedded so deeply in the GUI that it's always running at some level, even if you've disabled it as a browser.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

to make money. What could be more American than that?