Installing 32-bit IE 9 on 64-bit Windows

32-bit IE 9 is what you want to run, but Microsoft makes installing it on 64-bit Windows a little confusing so here's how to do it and what's actually going on.

Since I've written about how much faster 32-bit Internet Explorer (IE) 9 is than 64-bit IE 9, and all other browsers, on Windows 7, I've been buried by people running 64-bit Windows, and one poor soul who was still running 64-bit Vista, wanting to know how to install 32-bit IE 9 on their 64-bit Windows 7 systems. It's actually both quite easy and a bit confusing, so here's how to do it and a little of the back story. First, as many of you have discovered, if you try to download and install 32-bit IE 9 on a 64-bit Windows PC, you'll get the error message: "This version of setup doesn't support your Windows system type (32-bit/64-bit)." It's right. You can't. Instead what you need to do is to download the 64-bit version of IE 9. Yes, I know, it's the version you don't want if you want great Web browser performance, just stick with me. After you've done this, if you look at your All Programs menu, you'll see, right under Internet Explorer (64-bit), "Internet Explorer," that's the 32-bit version. That's right, when you install the 64-bit version, just like a Cracker-Jack prize, you get the real prize--32-bit IE 9--at the bottom of the box. If you want you can drag and drop the 32-bit IE icon on your main desktop. That's what I do. If you click on the IE icon on your main Windows menu bar, you'll also get the 32-bit version of IE 9 up and running. So, what's going on here? Why did Microsoft do this? That's a good question. In fact, if you look closely at your network setting, you'll find you can't even make IE 64-bit your default Web browser even if you wanted to! As Eric Law of Microsoft explained a while back, "This was an explicit choice made by the IE team, which may change at some point in the future. The problem is that users might inadvertently get "stuck" using the 64bit version and not realize it. This might cause some problems." What problems besides IE 9's 64-bit's poor performance compared to other browsers? The big one is that it's not compatible with some browser add-ons. So why do include it at all? Law explained, "Because we have to. :-)" OK.... Law continued, "One thing to keep in mind is that Internet Explorer is basically the combination of a number of platform components, including the networking components (URLMon/WinINET), the rendering components (MSHTML), the script engines (JScript.dll, vbscript.dll) and a variety of other pieces that hold it all together. These components must be made available in 64bit versions so that 64bit applications can be built using these components. Additionally, because Internet Explorer can be launched/created/used as a COM Server, we offer a 64bit version to enable hosting inside 64bit processes." Law concluded, "One day, 64bit IE might see a lot more use, as 64bit systems take over and 64bit add-ons become available. Time will tell." It may while when it comes to Web browsers though. IE 9 32-bit is clearly the better choice of the IE family. As for the other Web browsers, only Firefox offers a 64-bit version for Windows, and it's out of date. For now at least, if you're running 64-bit Windows, your Web browser, even if you have a 64-bit option, should be the 32-bit model. It will just run better. If you want to know more about IE 9 installing, uninstalling and tweaking, check out Ed Bott's IE 9 FAQ,