End of an era: Internet Explorer 11 has retired, here is what you need to know

Internet Explorer logo on a dark background

Well, Neowin readers, the day is finally here. June 15, 2022 is the day that Microsoft ends support for Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) and closes the chapter on its legacy browser. The company has been cautioning users about this end of life date for quite some time and also beckoning them to plan migrations to Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft bundled IE11 with Windows 8.1 as the modern, default web browser for Windows. Although it never quite reached the (current) heights of Chrome, it was the second-most used desktop browser back in 2014, just behind IE8. Of course, things have changed quite a lot since then with the advent of Microsoft Edge in 2015 as well.

Edge was bundled as the default browser with Windows 10 in 2015 but it has gone through quite a few iterations as well. The latest major version released in 2020 shifted to Chromium, which is the same open-source project that Google Chrome is based on.

But circling back to IE11, the desktop application is being retired across almost every consumer version of Windows, except the following:

  • Internet Explorer mode in Microsoft Edge
  • Internet Explorer platform (MSHTML/Trident), including WebOC
  • Internet Explorer 11 desktop application on:
    • Windows 8.1
    • Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU)
    • Windows 10 Server SAC (all versions)
    • Windows 10 IoT Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) (all versions)
    • Windows 10 Server LTSC (all versions)
    • Windows 10 client LTSC (all versions)

This means that Internet Explorer 11 installed on all other SKUs will no longer receive support or security updates. The browser isn't installed on Windows 11 either.

Internet Explorer ending support meme

Naturally, Microsoft has recommended that all users should migrate to Microsoft Edge. If you're dependent on certain legacy websites and software that only work with Internet Explorer, Microsoft has also included a feature called "IE mode" in Edge to tackle this use-case.

IE mode in Edge is powered by the MSHTML (Trident) engine also utilized by IE11, so it should work for fringe use-cases like the one described above. If you don't know how to enable IE mode in Edge, check out our guide (which also highlights a third-party alternative) here.

It is important to note that while iexplore.exe will remain on devices, Microsoft will be phasing out usage in two stages. The first stage will follow a quality-driven process to redirect IE usage to Microsoft Edge automatically. Microsoft has emphasized that Windows Update won't be powering this redirection so it is futile to avoid installing updates just so you can bypass this process. Microsoft will also prompt you that "The future of Internet Explorer is in Microsoft Edge". The entire procedure may take a few months.

The second retirement phase kicks in immediately after the first one ends. It will permanently disable IE on all affected Windows SKUs through Windows Updates (an optional "C" update follow by a "B" Cumulative Update). If you want it to be disabled at your own pace, check out Microsoft's guide here.

Microsoft has strictly stated that Internet Explorer 11 should not be uninstalled completely as it powers IE mode in Edge.

That said, you should know that IE mode isn't supported forever either. Its end of support date for various SKUs of Windows are as follows:

IE mode end of support

For organizations, IE Group Policies will continue to work in IE mode but you can reach out to the App Assure team if you face any issues. The same is also recommended for organizations facing problems with loading their sites in IE mode.

Finally, many sites including Microsoft's own and those owned by other companies have been dropping support for IE11 steadily over the past few months, so it's better to completely move your workflow to an alternative supported browser sooner rather than later.

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