Time To Upgrade Your Browser?

Category: Browsers

If I had to guess the most-often used piece of software on most computers, I would have to go with the Web browser. The Internet is an integral part of most people's computing experience these days, and the browser is the primary app for interacting with the online world. So it's surprising to me how lax some people are about keeping their Web browsers up to date. Here's why that's so important, and how to get it done...

Is Your Browser Up To Date?

The security of your web browser is one of the most important things you can do to keep safe and virus-free online. But incredibly, more than 8 per cent of the world is still using Internet Explorer 6, the browser that shipped with Windows XP more than ten years ago. China has the highest percentage of IE6 users (a whopping 28%), while in the U.S. IE6's market share has dwindled to about 1 percent. Norway leads the field in IE6 eradication, with just 0.2% clinging to the old clunker. You can track the slow death of IE6 at the IE6 Countdown website, and learn more about why IE6 is such a poor choice in today's environment.

Reasons for clinging to obsolete browsers range from the compelling to the silly. Some enterprise systems are trapped in older browsers by mission-critical legacy applications that won't work with modern browsers. It would cost too much to upgrade or replace the legacy apps, so everyone must make do with an old browser.

On the other hand, individuals cite "lack of time" as their reason for not upgrading a browser... as if an upgrade took all day instead of less than five minutes. Other reasons for shirking upgrades include fear of crashes, which are rare, and the old "if it isn't broken, why fix it?" rationale.
Update Your Browser!

There are a number of good reasons to keep your Web browser up to date. Security is probably the most important and least considered reason. Older browsers have many more security holes than the latest generation, and hackers have had years to develop numerous ways to exploit old browsers. If you use an old, outdated browser, you are much more likely to get zapped by a computer virus, spyware, or even identity theft. Some online banking sites won't even let you login if the security of your browser is not up to current standards.

Another reason is speed. Newer browsers are faster than old ones by a wide margin. Browser startup, page rendering, and Javascript, will all happen faster in newer browsers. Some can even take advantage of hardware acceleration features to speed up graphics and video. And older browsers don't support the newest Web programming techniques that make new applications possible.

What Browser Version Do I Have?

To determine the version of your Web browser, click Help in the menu bar, then click the "About" option. As of this writing, here are the current browser versions and links you can use to download the latest:

Browser upgrades are free; so it really doesn't make any sense to avoid upgrading. Unless, of course, you're ready to switch browsers. See my related article Is Chrome the Best Browser? to see why you might want to consider switching from your default browser to an alternative. There may be a few user interface changes when you upgrade your browser, or switch to a new one. But the basic functions will be the same -- you'll click or enter a web address, and off you go.

If you're out of date, take a minute to upgrade. It's as simple as downloading and installing any other free software. Browser developers want you to keep up to date so badly that they even push upgrades out to users automatically. When you see a notification that a new version of your browser is available, install it right away. Ultimately, whatever you were planning to do when this interruption came along will go faster and more securely.

Your thoughts are welcome on this topic! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Time To Upgrade Your Browser?"

(See all 27 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Ken McLeod
06 Dec 2011

Installing IE 9 on Vista creates a mess for anyone using Windows Mail. The ability to see email attachments disappears (paper clip icon gone missing), "save attachments" is grayed out and unusable, and the yellow information bar that allows you to download blocked images in an email has gone missing too. The TO and FROM and SUBJECT also are displayed in some giant courier font.

This is not unique to my machine, everyone using Windows Mail has this issue. (One step forward, two steps back.) Apparently Windows Mail and the browser have a very deep relationship, although they are separate programs. I uninstalled IE 9 and went back to 8, all is well again.

Posted by:

Brian S.
06 Dec 2011

I just updated Opera today from Version 11.52 to 11.60 and there seems to be a glitch on the top toolbar where an "&" sign is printed over the first letter of each word. I hope they release a fix soon.

Posted by:

The other Al
06 Dec 2011

Someone asked a question about multiple browsers on one machine. I have four of the five illustrated ones on my machine. If one "breaks down" the others often work. Also, each one has a different purpose (type of browsing) for me.

Posted by:

06 Dec 2011

How about 64 bit browsers? I now use the 64 bit version of IE9 and the 64 bit version of Firefox (which is called Waterfox 8.01 ... google Waterfox to get it). The old disadvantage of 64 bit browsers was that they were not supported by flash. The new Flash 7 works with 64 bit. Try them. You'll like them.

Posted by:

06 Dec 2011

And we're in a catch 22 at work. We have to have IE8 to use our own websites but most of the other sites won't work with IE8 (they just error out or won't work at all). Not to mention our reporting software wont' work with anything above IE6 (though I did find a workaround for that). It's ridiculous. So, I have IE6 on one machine so I can get to the non work sites I have to get to and IE8 on another for everything else.

Posted by:

06 Dec 2011

To answer Patricia McIntyre if I may be so bold :-)

yes, you can have more than one browser on your computer and use different ones for different things.
Foe example, if you have more than one eBay account, cookies only allow you to be logged in to one of your ID's at a time. Opening different ID's in different browsers solves this problem.

Posted by:

Nigel Appleby
06 Dec 2011

We receive our utility bills by e-bill. At least one of the utilitiese-bill site won't work with IE9, only IE8 or older. As far as I know it requires IE rather than any of the other browsers, so we're stuck with IE8. I will update when the issue with e-bill site is resolved.
Is this what's called legacy software?

Posted by:

06 Dec 2011

In response to Ken McLeod's post, I have and use IE9 and Windows Mail on my Windows 7 Home Premium system and have never had ANY of the problems he has mentioned!

So maybe he didn't uninstall IE8 before installing IE9? Or didn't upgrade IE8 to IE9 properly through Windows Update? Maybe he is using a dodgy copy of Windows? Maybe he doesn't clean out his temp files and IE cache regularly? Or maybe his operating system or computer is old and just cannot cope with newer software?

I'm sure there must be dozens of other possible causes for the type of problems he reports - but they are definitely not caused simply by using IE9 and Windows Mail on an up-to-date operating system!

Posted by:

Steve Sturgill
06 Dec 2011

Back in the spring of this year I 'attempted' to upgrade from IE7 to IE8. My OS is Windows XP Home. It rendered my computer useless? Had it not been for Acronis and my full backups, I would've been forced to reinstall everything and start from scratch! I've consulted several geek/experts, both locally and online, and they're all at a loss to explain it? I still wish to upgrade, but after that close call I more than a little gun shy. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, as I trust your recommendations completely.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is my major gripe with IE. It's too closely entangled with the operating system, so in some cases a simple thing like updating your browser can have unintended consequences. Suggestions? Try Firefox or Chrome.

Posted by:

07 Dec 2011

Many new programs insist that you use 'Chrome'. I will not use it again, after the "He's Dead Jim" attack.
Screwed up everything on my new desktop before I had all the new up-dates down-loaded.

I am staying with Firefox.

Posted by:

07 Dec 2011

I do not want to update my firefox browser because I love the addon clip marks ,which does not work with the latest firefox I believe this is a problem with other addons too.

Posted by:

07 Dec 2011

I bought a secondhand laptop on which OEM Vista had been overwritten by a dealer with his OEM XP Pro - two legit Windows copies on the machine but not politically correct so MS won't let me upgrade IE7. Says my copy isn't legal.
I have been mainly using Firefox and Thunderbird but have had enough crashes (including one where the MozBackup profile refused to work) that the rapid release process now induces me to let a few versions pass before updating (just went from FF5 to 8). If they would stop losing all my email and favourites i'd be more amenable.

Posted by:

Bob DiGrazia
07 Dec 2011

When I installed FireFox Version 4, it obliterated my Version 3.
There's some rigmarole that allows co-existence, but I choose to omit rigmarole.

If I could install the newest version without losing Version 4, I would. But I'm sticking with Version 4 until I'm forced to replace it.

When something fails in FF 4, I try another browser. Sometimes Chrome does better at displaying videos, but that's all I can say for it.

Regards, Bob

Posted by:

07 Dec 2011

Why doesn't everyone use Opera? It starts quicker even when I have half a dozen tabs open from a previous session. A few sites don't like it so I fall back to Firefox. I had a similar problem to Steve when I tried to update to IE9. At least it was a gave me the excuse (by force) to get a new motherboard!

Posted by:

Terry Hollett
07 Dec 2011

I have Opera, SeaMonkey, K-Melon, Firfox and of course IE. Opera is my main one. I use the email program built into SeaMonkey (much like Thunderbird). Opera has had poor printing support over the years, on and off, that's where K-Melon comes into play. The "Down-them-all" extension in Firefox is sometimes a godsend. And every blue moon I still actually come across an obscure web page that will only display properly in IE, go figure.

Posted by:

Ken McLeod
07 Dec 2011

Response to Sheri:

The detail I did not provide is that this affects all users on Vista. A little web search will show that. I actually attempted to re-post that fact but it did not get through. My machine and OS are as up to date and clean as they can be. You are using 7 so something has been changed there.

Windows mail and the IE browser apparently have a very deep relationship.

Posted by:

Brian S.
08 Dec 2011

Something else I like about Opera, is that if for some reason a site will not let you access it because you aren't using a compatible browser (such as a bank website) you can always "Identify As" or "Mask As" either IE or Firefox. Just right click anywhere on the page then click Edit Site Preferences, then click the Network tab, then change the browser identification at the bottom. You will have to refresh the page and possibly dump your cookies but it should work afterwards.

Posted by:

09 Dec 2011

In the business world though you get ham strung but what a vendor will support for their product.

We have one that works in IE7/8 and FF 3.5/3.6 and that's it. Now in IE8 there are issues with JRE 6r26+ due to new features from Oracle. And FF4+ works in most of the product but some bits don't (probably bad JS coding).

We need to use these products so need to keep browser versions back.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2011

I have IE, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari installed and I use them all at different times. I mainly use Firefox, and rarely use IE as IE seems much slower than the others. I always like to have other options in case one is causing me grief for some reason, I can usally web browse with one of the others. I dont' think I've ever had a problem with Firefox, but I've had many problems with IE. Also, I have found that if browsing isn't working with one and/or is extremely slow to load everything, I will open a different one and browsing will work great and quick.

Posted by:

14 Dec 2011

I mostly use Opera. I have kept Firefox 3 series because of all that I keep reading about problems with Firefox updates. When I begin to read that these problems have been largely resolved I may update Firefox. It also is a memory hog. As for Chrome, I tried it, and didn't care for it.

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