The web browser is a very important application for many people, so it’s imperative that it’s kept up-to-date and in tip-top shape.
All manner of web browser extras can accumulate over time and, while some may be useful, most just get in the way and some can pose potential security risks.
That’s why routine web browser spring-cleaning is advisable — once every six months should be enough.
Disabling unnecessary browser adds-ons and clearing out information saved automatically is enough to keep things running smoothly, but don’t forget to also check that you’re also using the latest version of your chosen browser.
The steps below are for Internet Explorer, but other web browsers all offer similar features.
Step 1: Check your web browser version
The first thing to check is that you’re using the latest version of your web browser. Updates are released all the time, both to add new features and to fix security holes, so using an out-of-date version can pose a serious risk.
The easiest way to keep Internet Explorer up to date is to enable automatic updates. Click Tools and select About Internet Explorer, click to enable the Install new versions automatically option and then click Close.
BT has an enhanced version of IE 11 with extra functionaltiy, which you can upgrade to here.
Step 2: Update Internet Explorer with Windows Update
If your version of Internet Explorer lacks the automatic updates option, open the Windows Start menu and type windows update into the search box. When the ‘Windows Update’ dialog box opens, click Check for update.
The latest version of Internet Explorer (if available) will be shown under the resulting ‘Important updates’ list. If there’s more than one, select the most recent version and click OK.
Step 3: Review Internet Explorer’s Toolbars
Internet Explorer Toolbars (not the one built into the browser itself), whilecan slow down web browsing, if you've got too many, installing too may also eat into the space available for viewing a web page, particularly on a low-resolution monitor.
To disable a Toolbar, click Internet Explorer’s Tools menu icon and select Manage Add-ons.
Step 4: Disable unwanted Toolbars
When the dialog box opens, select Toolbars and Extensions. Select the Toolbar on the right to disable (you just need to disable the ‘Toolbar’ entry - the associated ‘Helper’ will be disabled automatically) and click the Disable button. Confirm this in the new dialog box that opens, then move onto the next Toolbar, if necessary. If you are a BT customer you may want to keep the BT Toolbar, which contains quick links to BT email and popular websites.
Step 5: Disable Internet Explorer’s Accelerators
Internet Explorer Accelerators - adds-ons that speed up searches with web page content - can also clutter up the web browser, but these are easily removed in the same dialog box opened in Step 3. Select accelerators in the left of the ‘Manage Add-ons’ dialog box to see the list of installed Accelerators, then select and disable or remove each one in turn on the right.
Step 6: Check what Internet Explorer saves while browsing
Internet Explorer also saves previously visited web addresses, usernames and passwords for web sites you need to log into. These can speed up web browsing, but the lists can also get clogged with mistyped entries, and usernames and passwords you may have since changed.
To clear these lists, select Tools - Internet Options. Click the Content tab on the ‘Internet Options’ dialog box that opens and then click the Settings button in the ‘AutoComplete’ section.
Step 7: Stop Internet Explorer from saving certain information
When the ‘AutoComplete Settings’ dialog box has opened, you’ll see a list of information that Internet Explorer saves as you browse the web. You can deselect any of these options to prevent Internet Explorer saving them in future, without affecting the information it’s remembered so far.
Step 8: Delete Internet Explorer’s saved information
To clear any or all of this saved information, start by clicking Delete AutoComplete history.
Leave the default selections as they are on the ‘Delete Browsing History’ dialog box that opens, but it’s worth reading through each option to understand what they refer to. Click Delete to clear the selected options, then click OK on the two previous dialog boxes to close them.