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Internet Options

Change the settings that affect Internet Explorer and your dial-up Internet Connection.

To Open

Control Panel [Network and Internet Connections] Internet Options

Command Prompt control inetcpl.cpl

Internet Explorer Tools Internet Options


The Internet Options dialog is a densely packed dialog with about every conceivable option for Internet Explorer. Settings are divided into the following tabs:


The Home page section allows you to choose the page that loads automatically whenever an Internet Explorer window is opened, as well as the page linked to the Home button on the toolbar.

Temporary Internet files, also known as your browser cache, is a folder on your hard disk that stores copies of recently visited web pages for quicker access the next time they’re visited. The Temporary Internet Files folder is located at \Documents and Settings\{username}\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files by default. Cookies, a feature unrelated to Temporary Internet files, are pieces of information stored on your computer to allow certain web sites to remember your identity or preferences; click Delete Cookies to clear all cookies stored on your computer. To selectively remove cookies, open the \Documents and Settings\{username}\Cookies folder in Windows Explorer. See the Privacy tab for more Cookie settings.

Internet Explorer keeps track of pages you’ve visited and displays links to those pages in a different color (purple, by default, as opposed to the standard blue for links to pages you haven’t yet visited). Items in your History are also accessed with the AutoComplete feature discussed in “Internet Explorer”, earlier in this chapter. The History section controls how long before pages are removed from Internet Explorer’s history (see Figure 4-50).

Figure 4-50. Internet Options’ General tab lets you choose a default home page, manage cookies, and clear out your browser history

The remaining buttons allow you to control the default colors, fonts, and languages with which pages are shown. The Accessibility button essentially limits the control web pages have over their appearance.


Lets you specify the security settings for different predefined zones of Internet content. There are four basic zones: Internet, Intranet, Trusted, and Restricted. By default, all sites are placed into one of the first two zones. All sites found on your local network are placed into the Intranet zone. All other sites are placed into the Internet Zone. You can manually add sites to the Trusted and Restricted zones. Security settings for each zone are preset, but you can change these settings if you wish. For each zone, you can specify High, Medium, Low, or Custom security settings. Security settings govern such things as whether ActiveX controls, Java applets, and JavaScript programs are used, how files are downloaded, and how user authentication takes place.


The Privacy tab essentially controls when and how Internet Explorer accepts cookies. Play around with the slider to choose between six different preconfigured privacy policies, or click Advanced to choose your own settings. The Medium or Low policies should be suitable for most users. You can also click Edit in the Web Sites section to selectively choose which web sites can store and retrieve cookies, and which can not. You can view the cookies currently stored on your hard disk by opening the \Documents and Settings\{username}\Cookies folder in Windows Explorer.


The Content tab contains a number of functions that allow you to control what can and can’t be viewed by IE. Many of the features here are not widely used and still have a few kinks to be worked out.

Content Advisor

By default, the only content advisor installed is the Recreational Software Advisor Council Internet advisor (RSACi)—which ceased operation in 1999. This was no great loss. Unlike most services, RSACi depended on sites rating themselves for violence, nudity, sex and profanity—and almost none did. Running it now is a complete waste of time. Other content-filtering software packages rely on independent blacklists or automatic rating systems to help filter out the millions of inappropriate sites. Two notable alternatives are http://www.netnanny.com and http://www.cyberpatrol.com. For information about upgrading the Content Advisor with RSACi’s replacement, the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), visit http://www.icra.org/faq/. You can download an updated filter here for free, but consider the alternatives mentioned above first.


It’s fairly easy for one site to masquerade as another. Digital certificates, which use cryptography to create unique identifiers that can’t be forged, can be used by sites that want to prove their identity to you. Here, you can identify which certificate authorities (certificate issuers) you want to trust. If IE receives a certificate by an authority it doesn’t know about, it will either display a warning or will not display the associated web page at all, depending on your settings here. Companies sometimes self-certify their pages, especially in an Intranet context.

Personal Information

Microsoft Profile Assistant is used to store personal information, such as your name and email address, that is often required by forms on web sites. Web sites that support the use of the Profile Assistant can automatically draw this information from the assistant.

Right now, very few sites make full use of the functionality provided by the Profile Assistant. This may change in the future, but for now, these tools can still be useful as just a convenient location to store these types of information. Due to privacy concerns, however, you may understandably not feel comfortable doing this.

See “Internet Explorer”, earlier in this chapter, for more information on the AutoComplete feature.


The Connections tab allows you to choose to have your dial-up connection dialed automatically. If you’re not using a dial-up connection, but rather using DSL, cable, or a direct LAN connection, most of this page will be of no use to you. The exception is the LAN Settings dialog, which lets you configure your proxy (if you have one).

If you have one or more dial-up connections, they will be listed here. If you have two or more connections and you want to use the Auto Dial feature, choose one and click Set Default. Then, click either “Dial whenever a network connection is not present” or “Always dial my default connection,” whichever you prefer.

Select a connection and then click Settings Advanced to choose how many times Windows will dial before giving up and whether it should disconnect automatically if it detects that the connection is no longer needed.

It’s a bit dangerous to use the automatic idle disconnect feature if you are using Internet applications other than IE, since IE doesn’t recognize activity in other applications (such as Telnet). This can cause connections to close unexpectedly.

The Setup button starts the New Connection Wizard, discussed later in this chapter. See Chapter 7 for more information on setting up new Internet connections.


The settings in the Programs tab let you choose the default programs to use for sending mail, reading Internet news, placing Internet calls, viewing calendar scheduling, and viewing contact information (see Figure 4-51). For example, if you click a “mailto” link in a web page, Internet Explorer will activate the email program specified here. If your favorite applications don’t appear in these lists, you may have to reinstall them or obtain updates from the respective manufacturers.

Figure 4-51. Choose the default email application and web page editor with the Programs tab

If the “Internet Explorer should check to see whether it is the default browser” box is checked, any time you start up IE (as long as it isn’t already your default browser), it will ask you whether you want to make it your default browser. Thus, this setting is really just a shortcut to change file/program associations; see Control Panel [Appearance and Themes] Folder Options File Types tab. Unless you’re fond of what has come to be called “nagware,” I recommend leaving this box unchecked.


Advanced contains additional security settings in a hierarchical tree (see Figure 4-52). Many of these settings are rarely used and most are self-explanatory. Useful settings include:

Figure 4-52. The Advanced tab contains many settings that affect all aspects of web browsing with Internet Explorer

Notify when downloads complete

Normally, a message pops up when a download is complete, interrupting whatever you are doing. Disabling this feature is particularly helpful when you perform multiple downloads at once.

Use Smooth Scrolling

Specifies whether a page slides gradually when you click the scrollbar, a feature than can be especially distracting.

Underline Links

Specifies whether links on pages should be underlined always, never, or only when you hover your mouse pointer over them.


Multimedia can be a great part of the Web experience, but it can also slow down the delivery of web pages. The multimedia section lets you control whether certain multimedia elements, such as pictures, videos, and sounds, are downloaded for display. Thankfully, all those awful sounds in web pages can be silenced for good!


Enables or disables the printing of background colors and images when you print a web page. Print speed can be increased considerably with this option disabled. The settings that control Java, JavaScript (found under the Advanced tab in some earlier versions of Windows), can be found in Security Custom Level.


  • All of the settings in this dialog are also covered in Chapter 5.

  • Only the settings in the Connections tab affect your dial-up Internet Connection (if you have one), which affects all your Internet applications. All the other tabs affect only the Internet Explorer application. Settings that control the security and privacy features of other browsers, such as Netscape or Mozilla, can be found in those applications’ options windows.

See Also

“Control Panel”, “Internet Explorer”

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