After a decade of supporting products that were way past their expiration date, like Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6, Microsoft has decided it isn't messing around anymore. It's now heavily enforcing its product end-of-life dates, and several old versions of Internet Explorer are next on the chopping block.
As of Tuesday, January 12, Microsoft is no longer releasing security updates for Internet Explorer version 8, 9 and 10. If you're running one of those versions, you'll be wide open to any flaws that hackers find in the future. So, what can you do?
If you're running Windows 8.1 or 10, you don't have to worry because those have Internet Explorer 11 installed by default. The main operating system in danger is Windows 7, which originally shipped with IE 8. Windows 7 should have updated to IE 11 automatically in a past Windows update, but if you don't have automatic updates turned on, or you chose not to install that update, now is the time to get it.
If you aren't sure what version of IE you're using, open it up and click the gear icon in the upper-right corner. Then select "About Internet Explorer" and it will tell you the version. If you don't see a gear icon, then you have a very old version of Internet Explorer installed.
Go to Start>>Control Panel. Click "System and Security" and then under "Windows Update" click "Check for updates." The Internet Explorer upgrade will be in the Recommended Updates section. If you hid the update in the past, you need to click on the "Restore hidden updates" link on the left.
You can also wait for the next Update Tuesday, which is January 12. Microsoft is going to install an update that will tell you if Internet Explorer is out of date and give you a link to the upgrade. Even if you use an alternative browser like Firefox or Chrome, you need to update Internet Explorer because it's still a security risk even in the background.
For those of you still using Vista, which can't upgrade past Internet Explorer 9, you might wonder how this is going to affect you. Microsoft will continue to roll out security updates for IE 9 on Vista until Vista's end of life in April 2017. So, you won't be totally exposed.
Just make sure you're running IE 9 and not an earlier version. Open up IE and look to the right. If you see a gear icon, you've got IE 9. If you see "Tools," you're using IE 8 or earlier.
To upgrade to IE 9, go to Start>>Control Panel. Click "System and Security" and then under "Windows Update" click "Check for updates." The Internet Explorer upgrade will be in the Recommended Updates section. If you hid the update in the past, you need to click on the "Restore hidden updates" link on the left.
However, even with security updates, Internet Explorer 9 isn't as secure as more modern operating systems. We strongly recommend getting the latest versions of Firefox or Chrome and using that as your main browser.