Microsoft on Friday shipped a toolkit to block Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) from automatically installing on Windows 7 PCs, a signal that the new browser will release in the next few weeks.
The IE11 Blocker Toolkit is aimed at businesses that want to keep employees on an older edition of IE. Its tools include a script that can be run locally, as well as an administrative template IT administrators can use to block IE11 through Group Policy settings.
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The toolkit blocks automatic upgrading of older editions of Internet Explorer to IE11 on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 through the operating systems' built-in Automatic Update service. Companies that rely on Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or System Center 2012 do not need the toolkit since they can manage the deployment of IE11 using those tools.
Individuals can also use the toolkit to keep IE11 off their Windows machines without disabling Automatic Updates for all other Microsoft software.
Microsoft has issued similar toolkits for IE7, IE8, IE9 and IE10 before those browsers' public releases. Earlier this year, for example, Microsoft offered a blocking toolkit for IE10 about three weeks prior to the browser's public release.
If Microsoft sticks to the same timetable -- likely, since the idea of the early availability of the toolkit is to give companies time to deploy it -- IE11 will launch near the end of this month or in early November. Microsoft has declined to disclose a ship date for IE11 on Windows 7, saying previously only that it would be this fall.
IE11 on Windows 8.1 will debut sooner: The browser, part of the update to Windows 8, is to land on the Windows Store Thursday, Oct. 17. Current users of Windows 8 and Windows RT can download and install the free Windows 8.1 update -- including IE11 -- that day. Windows 8.1 retail upgrades and systems featuring Windows 8.1 are to launch Oct. 18.
Blocking toolkits, while long crafted by Microsoft, have become more important since early 2012, when the Redmond, Wash. developer began silently upgrading IE to the newest version suitable for a user's version of Windows. Most Windows XP customers, for example, have been upgraded to IE8, while Windows Vista maxed out at IE9 and Windows 7 PCs have, in lieu of a block of one kind or another, been moved to IE10.
Shortly after Microsoft ships the final version of IE11, it will begin pushing the browser to all Windows 7 machines via Automatic Updates. The result will resemble 2013's rapid rise in IE10 adoption. From February through September, IE10's share of all copies of Internet Explorer soared from next to nothing to nearly 34 percent under the forced upgrade from IE9.