Windows 10 users who use Internet Explorer 11 to browse the web are now benefitting from an enhancement to their security

IE11 - iconWho among us hasn’t opened their browser to discover that some scummy software has changed their Home Page and/or search engine? It happens annoyingly often and it can be difficult to find the settings that allow you to change them back.

The reason it happens is quite straight-forward: money. If you can be persuaded to go to web sites that other people want you to go to (as in a Home Page hijacking), or be persuaded to use a particular search engine that wasn’t your choice, then someone is likely to be making money from your browsing as a result of the changes.

IE11 - Settings Icon

Figure 1 – Internet Explorer 11 Settings icon

With its latest browser (“Edge“), Microsoft introduced programming that prevents websites from being able to change your choices in these two respects. Now they have introduced this technology into Internet Explorer 11. From my reading, though, it seems to me that it may only benefit Windows 10 users. These large computer companies do take some curious decisions. I’ve never been sure why they’ve introduced a second browser to compete directly with their existing one. The only reason I can think of is cold feet. They just didn’t dare remove Internet Explorer 11 from Windows 10 computers in case even more users chose to defect to Chrome or Firefox. With this new feature, though, they’ve got something that gave Edge the edge (as it were). It seems a bit odd to me that they would then put it in Internet Explorer as well. Never mind, it’s definitely a benefit.

IE11 - Home Page Selection

Changing the Home Page in Internet Explorer 11

There’s nothing you have to change, or set, in order to benefit from this increased protection. The software is just written in such a way that “outsiders” can’t run software that can make the changes surrepticiously.

This doesn’t, of course, make any difference at all to your own ability to change your Home Page and/or Search Engine.

Just in case you wonder how to do this in IE11 (as we techies call Internet Explorer 11),

Change Home Page in Internet Explorer 11

  • Left-click on the tools button (a cogwheel at the top right of IE11 – see figure 1)
  • Left-click on “Internet Options”
  • Left-click on the “General” tab (if it’s not already selected)
  • In the top box, under “Home page”, type in the address of your desired Home page. It’s actually easier if you go to that page before starting this exercise as you can then click the “Use current” button and it will assign that page as your Home page without typing in the address
  • Close the window with the “X” or “OK” button

Change Search Provider in Internet Explorer 11

  • Left-click on the tools button (a cogwheel at the top right of IE11 – see figure 1)
  • Left-click on “Manage add-ons”
  • Left-click on “Search Providers”
  • If your desired search engine is listed, then click on it and then click on the option near the bottom of the window marked “Set as default”
  • Click the “Close” button
  • If your desired search engine is not listed, then click on the option near the bottom of the window marked “Find more search providers”
  • You will then be shown a ridculously limited list of search providers that you can add. The list does include Google, but not DuckDuckGo
  • Click on the “Add” button next to the search provider you wish to add. Note that it will not appear in the list of search providers until you close and re-open the search provider settings window
  • Re-open the “search providers” window, click on your newly-added search provider and then click the option near the bottom of the window marked “Set as default”
  • Click the “Close” button
IE1 - 1Manage Add-Ons

Changing the Search Provider in “Manage Add-ons”

By the way, if you are wondering about the infantile smiley icon near the settings icon (see Figure 1) – no, you can’t remove it.

Has something hijacked your home page?

It is quite common for both malicious and benign software to decide (rather arrogantly) that it’s going to replace your browser home page with something else and that it’s not going to ask your permission or even tell you about it. This blog explains how to put it back again.

To begin with, what is your browser home page? It is nothing more than a specific page on a specific website that your browser opens when you first start the browser running or when you click on the browser home button (usually an icon of a house). Also, it may or may not be the same page as is opened when you open a new tab in a browser window (so that you have more than one web page open at once in the same browser window).

There’s room for a bit of confusion here as the term “home page” is also used to mean the “main page” or “beginning page” of any website. As such, a website’s home page is usually (but by no means always) the first page of that website that a visitor will land on. So, it’s quite likely that your browser’s home page (the first page it opens) is also the home page of the website it opens.

All browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari etc) give you the option of deciding for yourself what your home page should be. In practice, I would guess that about two thirds of all the home pages I see on my computer support clients’ browsers are set to the Google Search page (https://www.google.co.uk). A fair proportion of the rest are set to the BBC home page at www.bbc.co.uk. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend the latter as the BBC’s web pages are technically complicated, with loads of images and links to flashplayer etc, so the page may load quite slowly. Fine if that’s where you want to go, but a bit inefficient if the only reason for using that page as your home page is that you’ve got to start somewhere.

If you wish to change your browser’s home page, it’s a good idea to open the browser and navigate to the page you want to make your home page before following the instructions below. This is because you often get the opportunity to choose your “current page” or “current pages” (the web page(s) you are currently looking at) as your home page(s). That way, you can see you’ve got it right before choosing the page(s). Be careful, though: if you currently have six tabs open then all of the six open pages will become home pages, opened whenever you start your browser!


Firefox – see Figures 1a and 1b

  • Click on the menu button
  • Click on “Options”
  • Click on “General” on the sidebar list
  • Enter the webpage address or select “current”
  • Close the current tab (called “Options”) or close the browser and re-open it

Firefox Options 1

Figure 1a) Firefox Options


Firefox Options 2

Figure 1b) Firefox Options


Chrome – see Figures 2a and 2b

  • Click on the menu button
  • Click on the “settings” option
  • Under the “On Startup” heading, select “Open a specific page or set of pages”
  • Click on “Select Pages” and either select “current pages” or type in the website address (also known as the URL)
  • Close the current tab (called “Settings”) or close the browser and re-open it

Chrome Settings 1

Figure 2a) Chrome Settings

Chrome Settings 2

Figure 2b) Chrome Settings


Internet Explorer – see Figures 3a and 3b

  • Click on the “Tools” icon of a cogwheel
  • Click on “Internet Options”
  • Click on the “General” tab
  • Enter the web address(es) or click on “Use current”
  • Click on the “OK” button

Internet Explorer Tools 2

Figure 3a) Internet Explorer Settings

Internet Explorer Tools 2

Figure 3b) Internet Explorer Settings


Safari (on a Mac) – see Figures 4a and 4b

  • Click on the “Safari” menu option at the top of the screen
  • Click on “Preferences”
  • Click on the “General” tab
  • Enter the web address(es) or click on “Set to Current Page”
  • Close the “Preferences” page

Safari Settings 1

Figure 4a) Safari Settings

Safari Settings 2

Figure 4b) Safari Settings


If you are unable to change your Home Page, or if it insists on going back to a page that you have not chosen, then I’m afraid it is likely that you have malware on your computer and more drastic measures are indicated.

© 2011-2015 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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