Browser Help Resources
Web browsers are multipurpose Internet applications that include the ability to view websites as well as interact with other software and services.
Many browsers have come and gone over time. Most modern browsers offer improved security and functionality, yet each have their own weaknesses.
Download a Current Browser
There are good reasons for choosing a particular browser. Learn more….
Use only browsers that are a currently maintained.
- Be sure to always update to the current version of all installed browsers. (Learn about software versions.)
- Uninstall obsolete browsers or those you don't use except where prevented by the operating system (e.g. Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge or Safari).
Update Your Browser
Not sure what browser you're running? See What browser am I using?
Newer versions tend to be more secure, run faster and display current web content as it was intended. How to beef up your Chrome and Firefox security in 2019.
The Main Contenders
- Mozilla FireFox is a slim, standards-compliant browser that takes advantage of hardware acceleration. Strongly recommended.
- Firefox keeps your data safe. Never Sold.
- Windows, Linux, Macintosh are supported. Localized versions.
- Firefox overview | features | customization | keyboard shortcuts.
- Firefox Addons. Firefox Sync | Power user tips & tricks.
- Protect your privacy | Firefox Privacy | Data Collection.
- Extended Support Release provides longer-term support.
- Refresh Firefox | Troubleshooting Firefox.
- MozBackup backs up Mozilla profiles but is no longer developed.
- FireFox Mobile.
- Cliqz is a new Mozilla-based browser that is ultra-safe and ultra-fast.
- Apple Safari supports the latest Web standards.
- iPad, iPhone, iPod touch & Macintosh are supported.
- Safari extensions allow for new features to be added.
- Windows support ended on July 25, 2012 with version 5.1.7.
- Google Chrome combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier.
- Android & Apple iOS are supported.
- Microsoft Edge is optimized for Windows 10.
Internet Explorer: Do Not Use
Internet Explorer (IE) is more vulnerable than most browsers and has NOT been upgraded to support current web standards and therefore is no longer tested by most web designers.
While IE has been a part of Windows since Windows 95 and continues to be a part of Windows 10, it is no longer a suitable browser.
Is Internet Explorer (IE) a browser? According to Microsoft, no. Today, it's a 'compatibility solution' for enterprise customers to deal with legacy sites that should be updated for modern browsers. — ZDNet
Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 is available only for Windows 7, 8.1 or 10.
- Because it cannot be uninstalled, it MUST be maintained.
- IE's behaviour can be controlled by group policy (which is why it is common in corporate environments).
After January 12, 2016, only the most recent version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates. — IE Blog
Internet Explorer is a component of the Windows operating system and the most current version will continue to follow the specific lifecycle policy for the operating system for which it is installed. — IE Lifecycle FAQ
IE may be your only choice if you wish to play legacy Java-based games because modern browsers no longer support Java.
Watch out for alternative browsers that enhance Internet Explorer and therefore inherit all IE's vulnerabilities.
- Opera is a slim yet full-featured browser.
- Vivaldi is fast, but also rich in functionality, highly flexible and puts the user first.
- Firefox Developer Edition is beta software tailored for web developers.
- Pale Moon is an Open Source web browser optimized for modern processors.
- Based upon Firefox/Mozilla code, with carefully selected features and optimizations to improve the browser's speed, resource use, stability and user experience. It aims to provide close adherence to official web standards and specifications.
- Pale Moon addons.
- Windows and Linux are supported.
- SeaMonkey is a community effort to deliver a production-quality browser suite.
- Windows, Mac OS X & Linux are supported.
- See SeaMonkey Download & Releases for known issues.
- SeaMonkey Addons for extra features and styles.
- Whereas the main focus of the Mozilla Foundation is on Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird, this group of dedicated volunteers works to ensure that you can have “everything but the kitchen sink” — and have it stable enough for corporate use.
- SRWare Iron — Chrome advantages without any privacy and security problems
- Maxthon5 serves you with a super surfing experience.
- Provides high-performance cloud backup, synchronization & sharing capabilities, and advanced encryption to ensure user data security.
- Windows PC, Mac, Android and iOS platforms are supported.
- Avant is a standalone application designed to expand services provided by Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Since it's based on Internet Explorer, Avant Browser is as secure as Internet Explorer.
- This means that Avant is subject to the same vulnerabilities as IE .
- Windows 2000/2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 are supported (IE 6, 7, 8).
- iCab is a browser for the Mac. iCab FAQ.
- Lynx is a text-based web browser (no graphics) that predates the Web.
- evolt.org Browser Archive has many of the dozens of browsers that have come and gone over the years.
- Netscape Browser Archive.
- Browser Timelines shows the relative timeline of various key browsers.
These archives are useful primarily to researchers, web designers and others wishing to see how older browsers display current content. Installation of these browsers can corrupt Windows settings (such as earlier versions of Internet Explorer) or not work properly at all. They also lack any security improvements, so using them makes you much more vulnerable to malware and other hazards found on today's websites.
Mozilla uses the term “add-ons” to refer to three major forms of modifiers to Firefox:
- Extensions add new features to Firefox or modify existing ones.
- Appearance addons include complete themes which change how Firefox looks and background themes which only modify the title bar and tab strip with a background image.
- Plugins provide support and access to "helper" applications that are already installed on your computer.
Watch for Obsolete or Insecure Addons
Watch for Mozilla “permissions” warnings, particularly on older and potentially unmaintained addons. When clicked, the following text appears:
Some addons ask for permission to perform certain functions. Since you're in control of your Firefox, the choice to grant or deny these requests is yours.
Please note this add-on uses legacy technology, which gives it access to all browser functions and data without requesting your permission.
Installing these addons is risky. Uninstall them if they are currently present.
Apple Enhances Safari Privacy
The newest version of Apple's Safari browser will push back hard against the ad-tracking methods and device fingerprinting techniques that marketers and data brokers use to monitor web users as they browse. Starting with Facebook. — Wired
Apple noted that one of the methods of tracking are the identification of the extensions in Safari and plans to stop allowing such extensions so that all Safari profiles are similar, defeating such tracking techniques. Firefox users may want to consider that when choosing whether to include addons.
Watch out for obsolete and insecure addons and extensions. Like any software, these can become unsupported or may contain elements that spy on you or are otherwise insecure.
Extensions Complete on Their Own
Unlike plugins, extensions are complete on their own.
- Firefox extensions.
- Firefox now treats unsigned extensions with suspicion.
- See Mozilla's Find and install addons to add features to Firefox to learn more.
I add these basic Firefox extension to enhance the user experience on most installations (some are available for other browsers):
- HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.
- Ghostery or Privacy Badger privacy extensions.
- LastPass to replace the browser's potentially insecure password facility capability and to make it possible to share passwords with their other devices.
Firefox Privacy Extensions
[T]here is another reason websites track you — It's because you're worth a lot of money. Websites record your activity so they can sell your information to third party advertising platforms, essentially delivering ads that they hope are relevant to you. — ZoneAlarm Blog
In addition, there has been a huge increase in malware in online advertising and ads play havoc with expensive data plans on mobile and some ad networks have been used to spread ransomware.
ZoneAlarm's Adblocking in 2016 provides a balanced look at the issue.
Test Your Privacy
Panopticlick is an online test that analyzes how well your browser and extensions protect you against online tracking techniques, even if you are using privacy-protective software.
These extensions are designed to protect your privacy. Look at the 27 trackers found on the Forbes.com website (shown in a legacy version of Ghostery).
On the tools front, there are browser plug-ins such as Disconnect Private Browsing, Privacy Badger and Ghostery. Installing any one of these tends to administer a salutary shock, because they instantly reveal (and enable you to block) the startling number of snoopers who are covertly tracking your online activity. — The Guardian
- Ghostery lets you see who is tracking you online (including information on their privacy policies). It stops beacons, ads, analytics services, page widgets and other third-party page elements from secretly tracking your every move.
- Ghostery FAQs.
- Ghostery can also delete Flash and Silverlight cookies on exit.
- More recent versions of Ghostery use a simpler alert bubble than previous versions (shown on the right).
- Privacy Badger blocks spying ads and invisible trackers by enforcing the Do Not Track header (you have to have “Do Not Track” enabled in your browser) and may be a better alternative if you're uncomfortable with Ghostery.
- Mozilla's Do Not Track FAQ.
Passwords are unavoidable but present a risk to your privacy and security if not properly managed.
However, your browser's built-in password manager is not secure!
I liked LastPass because your sensitive data is encrypted locally before upload so even LastPass cannot get access to it. There are several options:
- LastPass, a free online password generator and manager, can be used on all your devices, for free! LastPass Premium is only US$12 per year and provides even more.
- A single installation on Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices can interact with all your installed browsers.
- Firefox LastPass Password Manager is a free secure online password manager which uses your LastPass account.
Addons for Web Developers
Web developers will want to check out my listing of useful Firefox extensions for web developers.
Browser Help Resources
These resources will help you if something goes wrong during the install or operation of your web browser.
- Mozilla Help topics.
- Firefox standard diagnostic.
- Troubleshoot problems with Firefox.
- Backing up Firefox.
Disable .NET Framework Assistant in Firefox
Microsoft surreptitiously installed the .NET Framework Assistant add-in to earlier versions of Mozilla Firefox using Windows Update.
Websites can take advantage of this addin to quietly install software without the user's knowledge, making your computer more vulnerable to malware.
If .NET Framework Assistant is present and the Uninstall button is grayed out or unavailable, follow these instructions to remove it.
Google Chrome Help
Google Chrome is now the world's dominant browser. Many other formerly-independent browsers including Microsoft Edge and Opera have been rebuilt using Chromium.
- Google Chrome Help.
- Google Chrome Help Community.
- Reset Chrome settings to default.
- Fix Chrome problems.
Microsoft Edge is the default browser for Windows 10 but the new Chromium-based Edge is also available for Windows 7 and newer, macOS, iOS and Android.
Safari is the default browser on macOS and iOS.
The Windows version is no longer developed and is unsafe to use.
If you're using Internet Explorer (IE), I strongly recommend you choose another browser. It is obsolete and no longer safe to use.
Windows 10 includes IE along with Microsoft Edge, however it was not intended to be used as your primary browser:
"You see, Internet Explorer is a compatibility solution," wrote [Microsoft security chief] Jackson in the blog. "We're not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren't testing for Internet Explorer these days. They're testing on modern browsers. — ZDNet
Internet Explorer Particularly Vulnerable
Internet Explorer vulnerabilities allow “remote code executions” which can allow an external user to take control of your computer, especially because of the tight integration with Windows.
ANY Internet Explorer vulnerability is a Windows vulnerability.
Internet Explorer has been long known to be vulnerable to the covert downloading of software from malicious Web sites…Merely visiting the corrupted site is all it takes. — BusinessWeek
No other browser is as tightly integrated into Windows, although some (like Avant) simply enhance Internet Explorer rather than replace it.
Always Update IE
Always update to the latest version of Internet Explorer available for your system (even if you're using another browser) because it provides the best security and features.
I strongly recommend moving to Firefox or another modern browser.
If you're having trouble viewing content properly or if your browser stops working, the resources in this section can help you to recover.
If you can't see any content, check to see if the issue is with a specific website or if your connection to the Internet is broken.
Can't See New Content?
Sometimes you'll have problems viewing what you expect on a webpage. Either updated content isn't showing or something is displaying incorrectly.
This is usually because the browser is displaying cached (locally-stored) content rather than refreshing the content from the website. Browsers use caches to avoid having to repeatedly download similar content from the Web such as style sheets, graphics, etc.
If reloading the page doesn't work try clearing the cache or a hard reset (forced refresh).
Disable Annoying Video Autoplay
You land on a site and all of a sudden a video is playing. You're annoyed for many reasons including
- clicking on the pause button distracts you from the reason you went to the site in the first place;
- these unwanted videos waste your bandwidth (especially when using expensive cellular data); and
- videos can be disruptive late at night or in your work environment if your sound isn't turned down or off.
You can stop Flash from running simply by disabling it (there are built-in settings in most browsers), but HTML5-based video is newer and unaffected by Flash settings. Recent versions of Firefox either disable autoplay or mute the sound.
- Older versions of Firefox contain an “off” switch in the about:config settings (search for media.autoplay and toggle the setting to false). Be careful when changing other settings.
- There is an extension available for Opera (Disable HTML5 Autoplay).
- Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer and Safari currently don't have any way to disable autoplay.
The following sites have more details on how to work with these settings:
- Blocking autoplay in Firefox from Mozilla Support.
- Stop Videos from playing automatically on websites.
- Stop HTML5 autoplay videos in Chrome, Firefox, Opera (but not Edge, Explorer, Safari).
- How to stop videos from autoplaying.