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Utility Spotlight: Manage and update Internet Explorer 10

You can use the Internet Explorer Administration Kit or Group Policy to control and modify settings in Internet Explorer 10.

Lance Whitney

If you’ve deployed Internet Explorer 10 to the networked PCs throughout your company, you’re going to need a way to manage and update the various browser settings. You’ll eventually need to change your homepage, tighten security or tweak privacy options. So how can you achieve all this from a central location?

One way to update Internet Explorer 10 is to modify the Internet settings (INS) file generated when you create your installation package with the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK). In my April article, “ Build your own Internet Explorer 10 installation,” I explained how to use IEAK 10 to build your own Internet Explorer 10 package.

IEAK uses the INS file to store your customized settings and options. You save the INS file on an internal Web server to which you point all your Internet Explorer 10 clients. As your users launch Internet Explorer 10, the browser picks up all of its settings from that file.

Now let’s say you need to make a change in Internet Explorer via the INS file. In earlier versions of IEAK, there was a Profile Manager that let you modify just the INS file. Microsoft switched gears with IEAK 10, so now you have to run the full Customization Wizard again to generate a new INS file.

The process is the same as the one outlined in the April article. Launch the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard from its Start menu shortcut in Windows 7 or Start screen tile in Windows 8. Be sure to run the program from the PC on which you initially created your package. Instead of having to recreate all of your customized settings, though, you can simply import your existing INS to load all of your initial settings.

To import settings from the INS file, click Next at the initial Welcome to the IEAK screen in the Customization Wizard. At the File Locations screen, click on the button that says Advanced Options. In the Advanced Options window, click on the Browse button and drill down to the local location of the INS file.

By default, this file will be in the c:\builds\[DATE OF PACKAGE]\INS\[NAME OF OS]\[LANGUAGE] folder and will be named INSTALL.INS. For example, if you created your package on March 27, 2013, and designed it for an English version of 64-bit Windows 7, the INSTALL.INS will be in the following location: c:\builds\03272013\INS\AMD64_WIN7\EN-US.

Double-click the INSTALL.INS file to load it, then click OK at the Advanced Options window (see Figure 1). You can now click Next to modify your package, and make the necessary changes along the way.

After you load the INS file, you can modify the settings in the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 10.

Figure 1 After you load the INS file, you can modify the settings in the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 10.

You could change the homepage at the Important URLs screen by removing the existing URL and adding a new one (see Figure 2). You could tighten security or tweak privacy options at the Security and Privacy Settings screen by clicking on the Modify Settings button and changing the necessary options in the Internet Properties window (see Figure 3).

You can quickly and easily replace a URL to change the homepage in the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 10.

Figure 2 You can quickly and easily replace a URL to change the homepage in the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 10.

It’s also fairly easy to adjust security and privacy settings in the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 10.

Figure 3 It’s also fairly easy to adjust security and privacy settings in the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 10.

After you’ve gone through each screen, click Finish, and IEAK will generate the new INS file. You’ll want to test it to ensure all your changes took effect. Copy the INSTALL.INS file to the location on your Web server where you store your live INS file. Launch Internet Explorer 10 on a computer on which your customized build of Internet Explorer 10 was installed. Open the Internet Options window, click on the Connections tab, click on the LAN Settings button, and change the address under “Use automatic configuration script” to point to the INSTALL.INS file instead of your live INS file (see Figure 4).

After you’ve created a new INS file, be sure to test it on Internet Explorer 10 before rolling it out.

Figure 4 After you’ve created a new INS file, be sure to test it on Internet Explorer 10 before rolling it out.

Close and relaunch Internet Explorer 10. Check the browser to ensure your latest customized settings are in effect. For example, if you changed the homepage in the new INS file, make sure the new homepage pops up in Internet Explorer.

After you’ve tested your new INS file, you can make it live. Rename your live INS file by changing the extension to BAK or OLD or something similar. Then rename the INSTALL.INS file to the same name as your live file. As your users launch Internet Explorer 10, the settings from the new INS file will propagate.

Another way

Is there another way to centrally manage and update Internet Explorer 10? Yes—those of you with Active Directory can also use Group Policy. First, try modifying the settings on your local computer. Open the local Group Policy Editor on a computer upon which Internet Explorer 10 is installed.

Under Computer Configuration, drill down to Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Internet Explorer. You should find all past settings for Internet Explorer, as well as the new settings for Internet Explorer 10. The full list of the new Group Policy settings in Internet Explorer 10 are described on the “ Internet Explorer 10 FAQ for IT Pros” page.

Enable and apply the necessary settings through Group Policy (see Figure 5). Open Internet Explorer 10 to ensure those settings are applied. After testing on a local computer, set up the Group Policy objects for your domain with the Internet Explorer 10 administrative template.

You can also apply settings to Internet Explorer 10 through Group Policy.

Figure 5 You can also apply settings to Internet Explorer 10 through Group Policy.

If needed, you can download the Group Policy template for Internet Explorer 10 (inetres.adm) from the Microsoft Download Center and add that to the Group Policy Object Editor for your Active Directory domain. Then you can make the necessary changes to apply the new settings across your domain.

Using either the INS file or Group Policy ensures that your Internet Explorer 10 settings remain consistent and updated throughout your entire organization.

Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a writer, IT consultant and software trainer. He’s spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world in the early ’90s. These days, he writes news stories, columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, and other technology sites and publications. His first book, “Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time” (Wiley, 2012), is now available.

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