Internet Explorer 6 (with Windows XP SP2) review: Internet Explorer 6 (with Windows XP SP2)

Microsoft's new pop-up blocker offers multiple control options, including the ability to block pop-ups entirely.
The Internet Explorer bundled with Windows XP SP2 now does a better job of informing you when Web sites attempt to load ActiveX software onto your system. Sometimes ActiveX is necessary to access some corporate sites, for example. A new Information Bar appears directly below the address bar whenever a site attempts to install an ActiveX Control, open a pop-up window, or download a file to your system. If you trust the site you are visiting, you can click the toolbar to continue the download.

The Information Bar lets you know when a Web site attempts to load software or launch a pop-up window.

Of course, the real value of Internet Explorer isn't what is built into it but what is built around it. Most Web sites are designed for Internet Explorer, and various third-party tools, such as the Google search bar or the Macromedia Flash plug-in, abound.

But there are many things you still can't do with Internet Explorer 6. For example, you can't view RSS feeds. (RSS is an easy way to filter and view news and blog headlines.) While there are third-party RSS readers available as IE plug-ins--Puck, for example--we like the fact that Firefox includes its own built-in RSS reader. Another thing you can't do in IE is open multiple Web pages within the same window, a feature that's available in Firefox, Netscape, Opera, and Safari. To view multiple pages simultaneously within IE, you'll need to open several instances of the browser, which can drain your system's resources.

If Windows and Internet Explorer came preloaded on your computer, your PC's manufacturer is responsible for providing support. If you bought Windows and, therefore, Internet Explorer on your own, e-mail and telephone support costs with Microsoft are prohibitively high but not more than with other major software developers. E-mail support is available with a 24-hour turnaround, but it will cost you an unheard-of $35 per incident. Telephone support also costs $35 per incident but can run as high as $245 for "advanced issues." Microsoft's hours for live telephone support are Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT.

The good news is that the automated services and support databases available on the Microsoft site are very helpful. The Web site offers thousands of FAQs with easy-to-follow fixes for most problems. And with IE owning 95 percent of the browser market, there is a good chance that someone else has had the same problem as you and that an answer is already archived on the site. The company periodically releases patches to known problems, usually plugging a security hole, but unless you're running Windows XP and automatically download the latest updates, you'll have to download these patches on your own.

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    • Release date Aug 4, 2004