Set the Internet Explorer Version You Want as the Default in Windows 8.1

Each new version of Windows also comes with a new version of Internet Explorer. Windows 8.1 upgrades all users to Internet Explorer 11 which comes in two versions: an app version that is very suitable for devices with touch and the desktop version you know from the past. By default, you can use both versions in Windows 8.1 and you can also set the one you prefer as the default for browsing the web. Here's how this is done.

What's Different Between the Internet Explorer App & the Desktop Version?

The two versions of the Internet Explorer are very different, because they are meant to be used on different devices. The Internet Explorer app is available only from the Start screen and it is a full screen, touch-friendly app. It is also lighter in terms of resource consumption because it doesn't support any add-ons, except for the built-in Adobe Flash Player. The down side is that the Internet Explorer app offers a bit less performance when browsing the web. In our tests, it was about 10-14% slower than the desktop version. If you want to learn more about the performance differences between the two versions of the Internet Explorer you can read this article: Browser Wars: What Performance Does Internet Explorer 11 Deliver?.

How to Make Internet Explorer Your Default Browser in Windows 8.1

In order to use the Internet Explorer app, you must have Internet Explorer set as your default web browser. If Internet Explorer is already your default web browser you can skip to the next section in this article.

If you use another web browser as the default and you don't know how to set Internet Explorer as the default, please read this article: How to Change File Associations in Windows 7 and Windows 8.

In the Set Default Programs window, select Internet Explorer and then choose "Set this program as default" and press OK.

How to Start Both Versions of Internet Explorer in Windows 8.1

Now, that Internet Explorer is your default web browser, you have to understand that for each type of user interface in Windows 8.1, the corresponding Internet Explorer version will open.

If you open Internet Explorer from the Desktop, using its shortcut in the taskbar, the desktop version of Internet Explorer is opened.

This version is suitable for PC users. It has lots of options, add-on, plugins and it delivers better performance.

To learn more about this version of Internet Explorer, please read this article.

If you click or tap the Internet Explorer tile on the Start screen, you will open the Internet Explorer app.

As you can see, this version is highly optimized for devices with touch. It offers a great experience on tablets and touch screens but it doesn't have any add-ons and plugins.

If you cannot find the Internet Explorer tile, you should pin it to the Start screen. If you don't know how to do this, please read this article.

How to Choose the Default Internet Explorer Version in Windows 8.1

Using both Internet Explorer versions could be useful at the beginning because you can understand how they both work, what they offer and which version is the best for you. After you have made your decision, you may prefer to choose only one of the two Internet Explorer versions as the default.

To do this, you must open Internet Explorer on the Desktop. Then, click or tap the Tools icon in the top right corner of the window and open the Tools menu.

If you use a desktop computer or laptop, you can also do this by pressing Alt+X on your keyboard.

Click or tap Internet Options in the menu to open the window with the same name.

In Internet Options, go to the Programs tab.

In the section named Opening Internet Explorer you can see that, by default, you use both versions of Internet Explorer, depending on where you start it from. This is what the "Let Internet Explorer decide" setting means.

You can also choose one of the other two options available:

  • "Always in Internet Explorer on the Desktop" - if you select this option and then check "Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop", then the desktop version of Internet Explorer is set as the default.
  • "Always in Internet Explorer" - if you select this option and leave the "Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop" checkbox unchecked, then the app version of Internet Explorer is set as the default.

Click or tap OK to apply your changes.

If you ever want to go back to the default settings of Internet Explorer, you should leave "Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop" checkbox unchecked and select "Let Internet Explorer decide".


Even though having two versions of Internet Explorer may be confusing at first, you will see that it actually make sense. Windows 8.1 is designed to be used on lots of devices, from classic PCs to hybrid devices and tablets. While one version of Internet Explorer may work well on one type of devices, it won't work well on others. That's why you have two versions and you can choose as the default the one that works best for you.