Browsers Windows

How to Avoid the Trojan Horse Update to Internet Explorer 11

Tina Sieber 14-03-2016

Internet Explorer 11 is Microsoft’s latest vehicle to promote Windows 10. This time, the Trojan Horse is a critical security update for Internet Explorer 11 Why You Should Upgrade To Internet Explorer 11 Now Restoring Internet Explorer to a browser that people actually wanted to use was always going to be a hard road, but it's just possible that with Internet Explorer 11 this stage has been reached. Read More , which comes bundled with a non-security-related update that reportedly adds a Windows 10 banner ad to the browser in Windows 7 and 8.1.


In retrospection, this step is not surprising. As Windows 10 is replacing Windows 7 and 8, Microsoft is also decommissioning Internet Explorer (IE) to make space for the new browser, Microsoft Edge 10 Reasons You Should Be Using Microsoft Edge Now Microsoft Edge marks a complete break from the Internet Explorer brand name, killing off a 20-year-old family tree in the process. Here's why you should be using it. Read More . Why not target IE users and get them to upgrade to Microsoft’s new flagship browser?

You can give in to Microsoft’s nagging or you can continue to resist. We’re here to educate you about your options and help you with your next move.

What Did Microsoft Do This Time?

On Patch Tuesday on March 8, Microsoft released a 52 MB large security update for Internet Explorer for Windows 7 and 8.1.

Internet Explorer 11 Update

The summary for patch #3139929 reads like this:


This security update resolves several reported vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. The most severe of these vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted webpage in Internet Explorer. (…) Additionally, this security update includes several nonsecurity-related fixes for Internet Explorer.

The last sentence seemed suspicious to Wood Leonhard of InfoWorld, who was the first to report on this case. Sure enough, in the list of non-security-related fixes included in the security update, the description of update #3146449 says “Updated Internet Explorer 11 capabilities to upgrade Windows 8.1 and Windows 7.”

The respective knowledge base article leaves no doubt about what this update intends to do:

This update adds functionality to Internet Explorer 11 on some computers that lets users learn about Windows 10 or start an upgrade to Windows 10.

The update is said to only affect computers that have not joined a domain. Furthermore, the banner ad is reported to show in the new tab page only. Unfortunately, we have not been able to trigger it. We suspect that — as with the Get Windows 10 app Has Microsoft Installed Adware on Your PC to Promote Windows 10? Windows 10 is coming and Microsoft is going to great lengths to ensure each and every Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 user is fully aware. Is update KB3035583 essentially adware? Read More — Microsoft won’t launch system-wide ads until later this year, and that we’re only seeing preparations for a more aggressive push for people to finally upgrade to Windows 10 How to Block the Aggressive Windows 10 Upgrade on Windows 7 and 8.1 Microsoft ramps up its efforts to make users upgrade to Windows 10. Come 2016, many people will wake up to a new operating system, despite never having consented to the upgrade. Don't be one of... Read More .

Internet Explorer 11 Windows 10 Upgrade Ad


Note: The screenshot above depicts a standard overlay ad on, which also pops up in other browsers, and was first seen in August 2015. To date, we haven’t seen documentations of any Windows 10 banner ads anywhere that we couldn’t also reproduce in Chrome on Windows 7.

Why Is This Update a Problem?

Microsoft is sneaking in an update that is not required to safely use Internet Explorer 11 and there is no way to isolate, remove, or block it. Sadly, we can expect to see more of this kind of deceptive behavior.

What’s disturbing is that Microsoft appears to be following the idea that the end justifies the means. In Microsoft’s world, it has become legitimate to bundle upgrade reminders, possibly in the form of banner ads, with security updates.

In the present case, the Trojan update primarily affects private users of Windows 7 and 8.1, i.e. people who self manage their systems and its security-related settings. This is the audience that will have the least control over updates. With Windows 10, Microsoft is switching to fully automated updates Pros & Cons of Forced Updates in Windows 10 Updates will change in Windows 10. Right now you can pick and choose. Windows 10, however, will force updates onto you. It has advantages, like improved security, but it can also go wrong. What's more... Read More , supposedly to increase security.


And in the disguise of security, users are being hassled into upgrading to Windows 10, too.

What Can You Do?

Your options are limited because the adware comes packed with a security update. While you can uninstall security updates in Windows 7 and 8.1 Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More , it would be irresponsible not to apply the latest patches 3 Reasons Why You Should Be Running The Latest Windows Security Patches & Updates The code that makes up the Windows operating system contains security loop holes, errors, incompatibilities, or outdated software elements. In short, Windows isn't perfect, we all know that. Security patches and updates fix the vulnerabilities... Read More . What you can do instead is…

1. Avoid the New Tab Page in Internet Explorer 11

Many of you are already doing this with the Get Windows 10 system tray icon Get Windows 10: It's Not a Virus! The Get Windows 10 icon in your system tray is not a virus. It's Microsoft's official upgrade note prior to the official release of Windows 10 on July 29th, 2015. Read More and other ads you see online. Just pretend it wasn’t there and don’t fall for the temptation.

Since the banner is only showing in the new tab page, we recommend switching to a different setting for your new tabs. Within Internet Explorer, go to Settings > Internet Options, press the Tabs button, and under When a new tag is opened open: select either A blank page or Your first home page.


Internet Explorer 11 New Tab Page

This should settle things for now.

2. Migrate to an Alternative Browser

If you’re not using Internet Explorer, Microsoft won’t be able to bother you with its Windows 10 banner ad nonsense; at least not inside your browser. Fortunately, you have plenty of options to surf the Internet Which Browser Is Best? Edge vs. Chrome vs. Opera vs. Firefox The browser you're using right now may not be the best one for you. The browser arena changes so frequently that your conclusions from comparisons made last year may be completely wrong this year. Read More .


Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge are non-options, but you can still choose from Opera, Firefox, and many niche browsers, like Nitro Nitro: Check Out Maxthon's Super-Fast Web Browser Today It's the fastest browser I've ever used. For the first time in a while, we actually have a clear, longshot winner. Read More .

3. Remove Internet Explorer’s Front End

If you really want to rid yourself of Internet Explorer, you can remove its user interface elements. Go to Control Panel > Programs > Turn Windows features on or off and remove the checkmark next to Internet Explorer. Click OK, wait until the process completes, reboot your computer, and IE will have disappeared.

Turn Off Internet Explorer

Note that we do not recommend this method because in rare cases you’ll need Internet Explorer to access legacy websites, Windows components like Help and Support, or pages that require ActiveX. Besides, Internet Explorer is deeply integrated into Windows, so you can’t actually uninstall it. Microsoft Developer Pat Altimore explains:

All of the system components remain for use by the operating system and other applications. The web browser application (IExplore.exe) is “hidden” and not removed. When you apply security updates to the PC, the Windows components as well as the hidden IExplore.exe are serviced. Therefore, if you re-enable IE, it should be up to date.

In other words, save yourself the effort, just switch to a different default browser, and forget about IE 8 Most Common Internet Explorer Issues (And Easy Ways to Fix Them) Here are some of the most common problems you may encounter with IE and quick and easy solutions for fixing them. Read More , while you don’t need it.

Windows Is For-Profit

If you’re set to stay with Windows 7 or 8.1, you should remain alert. This is not Microsoft’s last move in getting you to upgrade prior to July 2016, even though Windows 7 and 8.1 will be supported for years to come Why to Upgrade Windows at the End of Extended Support Eventually, support for every Windows version expires, leaving PCs full of holes, entry points for malware, and opportunities for hackers. Windows 8 recently reached end of support status - we show you why and how... Read More .

You can prepare for future upgrade hassles Microsoft Strikes Again - How to NOT Upgrade to Windows 10 Windows 10 is now a recommended update on Windows 7 and 8.1 computers. If you're not yet ready to upgrade, it's time to double-check your Windows Update settings. We show you how. Read More by installing a third party application that can help you block the Windows 10 upgrade. GWX Control Panel, for example, has been successful in removing and blocking the intrusive Get Windows 10 app.

Remember that Windows is a for-profit venture This Is How Microsoft Can Monetize Windows 10 Nothing in life is free, not even Windows 10. Many millions of users will indeed have a free Windows 10 upgrade. But how are we going to pay for Windows 10 in the long run? Read More and the least profitable audience so far has been home users. While Windows 10 is a great operating system Is It Time to Upgrade to Windows 10, Yet? Microsoft really wants to you upgrade to Windows 10. But should you? To help you make up your mind, we argue both the pro and the contra, and offer careful advice. How will you decide? Read More , it’s clear that Microsoft will promote products across the operating system How to Ban Windows 10 Ads & NSFW Content from Your Desktop Windows 10 may be crossing a line with desktop ads and NSFW content. Microsoft and third-party developers can push promotional material directly onto your desktop. We show you how you can defend yourself. Read More to make sales through the Windows Store. The larger the potential customer base, the higher the margin, hence the relentless push for the “free” Windows 10 upgrade Windows 10 Upgrade - Free Doesn't Mean It Won't Cost Anything There's a catch to the free Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft understands its audience all too well; they are more likely to pay for the freedom of control, rather than for extra features. Read More and an audience of 1 billion Windows 10 users.

How concerned are you about Windows Update pushing unsolicited updates onto your computer? Have you seen the ominous banner ad in Internet Explorer, yet? What makes you stick with your old Windows version?

Related topics: Internet Explorer, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Upgrade.

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  1. Anonymous
    March 15, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    With A Dual Core PC, I Am Loving Legacy Software The More And More With Each Passing Day.


  2. Andreas
    March 15, 2016 at 4:37 am

    I am mentally preparing myself for a permanent switch to Linux for when support for Windows 8.1 expires.