An IE8 Beta 2 Q&A

Yesterday I published my first look at the just-released Beta 2 of Internet Explorer 8. I got some great comments in the Talkback thread and via e-mail and thought it would be worth answering them here. Should you install IE8? Where can you download the correct code for your OS. Are there any special precautions you need to follow before installing the beta? Can it be uninstalled? I've got the answers to these and other questions.

Yesterday I published my first look at the just-released Beta 2 of Internet Explorer 8. I got some great comments in the Talkback thread and via e-mail and thought it would be worth answering them here. If you have any additional questions, post them in the Talkback section and I’ll try get to them in a follow-up.

Is there an official (or unofficial) feature list?

This Microsoft fact sheet seems fairly complete. There are some good descriptions with screen shots here and here and here. And, of course, you can always go look at my screenshot gallery, which has some additional text descriptions for each of a dozen features.

Should I install IE8 Beta 2?

If you have to ask, the answer is probably no. This is beta software. I think it’s pretty well tested, and Microsoft wants lots of people to try it out, but it is not finished, it has known incompatibilities with some software programs and websites, and you run it at your own risk.

Having said that, if you’re comfortable with running beta software and are also comfortable with your ability to deal with problems, then yes, I do recommend it. I especially recommend it for two groups:

  • Website developers, who will want to test using it and who will love the developer tools, and
  • Firefox users, who already have a working default browser and might be interested in the comparison.

Do I need to do anything special before installing IE8 Beta 2?

Probably. The official caveats and install/uninstall instructions are on this fact sheet. I strongly recommend you read them before blithely beginning the installation. Pay special attention to the required updates. If you’re running Windows XP SP3, read these additional notes. [Update: in the comments, rseiler points out that the official release notes are well worth reading as well. Thanks for the pointer!]

Does IE8 Beta 2 run on my operating system?

According to Microsoft’s announcement, IE8 Beta 2 runs on “32- and 64-bit editions of Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008.” All versions are currently supported in English, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified), and German. According to Microsoft, support for additional languages “will be available soon.”

There are no versions for non-Microsoft operating systems, nor for any Windows versions prior to Windows XP.

Will it be offered via Windows Update?

The Beta 2 release will be pushed out via Windows Update only to systems that already have IE8 Beta 1 installed. If you are not using that beta, you’ll need to download and install it manually. And even after the final release, it will likely not be available as an Automatic Update for several months, and corporate customers will have a blocking tool.

Does IE8 Beta 2 run alongside IE7?

No, it replaces your current version of IE. You can use the Developer tools and compatibility settings to make IE8 behave very much like IE7, however.

Can I uninstall IE8?

Yes. Go to the Programs option in Control Panel. Remember that IE8 is considered a Windows Update, so you’ll need to select the “Show Updates” check box (in Windows XP) or click View Installed Updates (in the Windows Vista Tasks list, along the left of the Programs window) to see the correct listing.

Where can I download the code?

Here are the official download links.

Windows XP (x86)

Windows Server 2003 SP2 (x86)

Windows Server 2003 SP2 (x64) or Windows XP Professional (x64)

Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (x86)

Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (x64)

Where can I get technical support?

The IE Beta Newsgroup contains a list of known issues. If your issue isn’t on that list and you get stuck, that’s the proper place to post a request for help. Several Microsoft MVPs and employees are monitoring this newsgroup.

Will my plugins work?

I have successfully used the latest versions of Flash, Silverlight, and RoboForm and several third-party toolbars and browser helper objects. I haven’t heard any widespread complaints about plug-in incompatibilities, but you might want to check out the IE Beta Newsgroup if you’re concerned about a particular add-in.