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WinXP Tweaking: From Relax to Righteous

By: Koroush Ghazi | Guides | Posted: Feb 8, 2003 5:00 am

Internet Explorer 6



While some people use different internet browsers such as Netscape or Opera, Internet Explorer (IE) is still the most popular browser, and for the most part is quite good. It does have a few quirks and problems which need to be fixed now and then, but that's what tweak guides are for, right?


Note that these tweaks have been tested and work on Internet Explorer 6 with IE SP1 and all updates. If you haven't got the latest version of Internet Explorer along with all its updates, I urge you to use Windows Update to download and install these important files. Older versions of IE have security weaknesses and problems which are resolved with the latest version and associated patches.


Basic Internet Explorer settings


Tool: Internet Explorer 6 with IE SP1 and all Updates.


This tweak covers the basic settings of Internet Explorer which should be optimized for efficient, trouble-free browsing. Open the options box by going into Internet Explorer>Tools>Internet Options. Below are my recommendations for the important settings under each tab of Internet Options.





Under the Temporary Internet Files section select the Settings button. Under the 'Check for newer versions of stored pages' section select 'Every visit to the page' to make sure you're seeing the latest internet content for every page you visit. Assign around 30MB of disk space or even less for the Temporary internet files folder. Don't set this to zero, however keep the size small for fastest browsing. A cache which is much too large, aside from taking up disk space, may actually end up making sites longer to load. Click OK to close.


Under the History section, set Days to 1 or 2 days at most to reduce wasted disk space. If you don't want a history of the sites you visit to be kept at all, click the Clear History button and set Days to 0.




I recommend at least the Medium level of security. Any higher is up to you, but bear in mind this will prevent some websites from functioning as designed. This can be a good thing if the website is harmful or annoying, but it can also be bad if the website has genuinely useful interactive function which is being blocked. If you want to be on the safe side, click the Custom Level button and manually select each security function. For any which are dubious I suggest you select Prompt and try out your favorite sites to see which site triggers what function and adjust further from there.





Just like Security settings above, I recommend the Medium level for the best security/functionality compromise. You can click the Advanced button and override automatic cookie handling. Third party cookies can be blocked without any major issues, as these are usually from advertisers. First party cookies on the other hand can be useful (e.g for forums), and blocking them can impair a site's functionality. If you do decide to block all first party cookies, click the Edit button under the Websites area. This will allow you to block or allow specific website's cookies. For example, if you set a High or Very High privacy setting this will block almost all cookies, but you can still allow TweakTown's cookies by adding it to the list of allowed sites.


Microsoft has a detailed run-through of the privacy features new to Internet Explorer 6 here. I suggest you look through it and decide for yourself how private you want to be and in what ways.




If enabled, the Content Advisor allows you to attempt to filter out and control access to websites which use offensive material/language. The settings here are obviously determined by tastes and tolerances, but for most adults I don't see why Content Advisor needs to be enabled.


Certificates are quite important, but also too complex to get into here. The best thing to do is to click on the Certificates button, and under Intended Purpose select All. Now use the small arrows just below that box to scroll across to the Trusted Publishers tab. Make sure the entries in this box (e.g Microsoft Corporation) are companies you know and have actually chosen to trust. Double click on the certificate to see more details. Highlight a certificate and click Remove if you don't trust it.


Click the Autocomplete button next. Autocomplete can be useful, but if you have several users on one PC, it can be very dangerous, as others can accidentally or intentionally see which websites you've visited, what data you've entered on forms, and even what your username and password is on sites which require login (such as forums). If you have multiple users on a PC, untick all forms of autocomplete and click the Clear Forms and Clear Passwords button as well for maximum safety. If you're the only user, I recommend using autocomplete.




Set up all information in this box as provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).




Set programs used to taste. If Internet Explorer is your default browser and you don't have any other browsers installed, untick the 'Internet Explorer should check to see whether it is the default browser' option. Having it ticked will only increase IE's startup time, and is unnecessary. Note if you press the Reset Web Settings button it set everything back to the IE defaults. Use it as a quick way of undoing any changes to the settings above.




Most of the settings can be set to taste. My recommendations for important settings are:


Automatically check for Internet Explorer Updates - Untick (use Windows Update instead)


Disable script debugging - Untick


Display a notification about every script error - Untick


Enable Install on Demand (both Internet Explorer and Other) - Tick


Enable Third Party Browser Extensions - Tick


Show Pictures - Tick


Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed - Untick


Use SSL 2.0 - Tick


Use SSL 3.0 - Tick


Warn about invalid site certificates - Tick


Warn if forms submittal is being redirected - Tick


That covers the basics of Internet Explorer settings.


Repair Internet Explorer 6


Tool: Internet Explorer 6, System File Checker


If you're having a lot of problems with Internet Explorer, the first thing to do is to repair IE. This is the quickest way of fixing problems, and usually involves a reinstall of Internet Explorer. There are several methods to do this:


System File Checker


The first method involves using the System File Checker. Note that this requires you to have your Windows XP CD handy.


1. Go to Start>Run and type "SFC /Scannow" (without quotes).


2. The System File Checker will go through all your important system files and make sure they're as provided by Microsoft, and haven't been corrupted or tampered with. You will be prompted to insert your Windows XP CD to access some of the original XP files. You can skip this each time XP asks, but this will likely result in a failed repair, so I recommend you do as required and insert the CD.


3. If prompted to reboot your PC, reboot as required. The next time you open Internet Explorer your problems should be fixed.


Note System File Checker checks all your MS files, not just the IE-related ones, so it's a good method to repair your Windows installation if you suspect corrupted/tampered files (see Installation Issues section).


Add/Remove Programs



The second method involves uninstall and reinstalling Internet Explorer. You can't just delete the IE files and Internet Explorer directory, or find an entry for IE under Add/Remove programs to do that. You need to do the following:


1. Go to Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs.


2. Click on the Add/Remove Windows Components button on the left sidebar.


3. Untick Internet Explorer and click Next. Follow the prompts and IE will be uninstalled.


4. Now to reinstall IE, go through steps 1-2 above, but this time place a tick next to Internet Explorer to reinstall it. You may be prompted for your Windows XP CD, which you should use to complete the process. Now you'll have a fresh install of Internet Explorer, hopefully free of errors.


If you continue to experience problems with Internet Explorer, try other Internet Explorer tweaks from this or my previous XP Guide. At least you can be more certain by doing the above that it's not file corruption or tampering of system files by a virus, malicious script or third party program.


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