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Your Internet Browser: Is It Time for an Upgrade?

A reader asks why certain Web sites were no longer working. The answer could be in your Internet browser.

A reader recently wrote in for help in accessing Web sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, each which require cookies.  The pages wouldn't load for her, even when she adjusted her Internet options in Internet Explorer.  As I didn't have access to her computer, I don't know what her specific problem was but I did recommend that she consider updating her browser to a newer version as her computer was from 2006.

With an older computer, she probably was running IE6 or IE7.  Many computer users never see the need to change software as "it just works."  This is usually the case, as long as software gets regular updates, it shouldn't require much other maintenance. 

Word processors, e-mail programs, office programs--usually home users are fine sticking with the programs that shipped with their computers and don't upgrade until it is time to replace their computer.  The added expense doesn't usually justify new software if everything is still working.

One software update we should all consider, however, is your Internet browser.  They are free, for one thing; easy to install, have many new and improved features and the most important reason of all, older browsers will not be able to access some features written in the new HTML5 standard and earlier browsers may not comply with security requirements of some sites including banking sites.

Microsoft has created a Web site devoted to encouraging users of Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) to upgrade to a newer browser called the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown. They have created a chart comparing the features of the various versions of IE.

There are other popular browsers you may want to try.  Google has Chrome and Mozilla provides Firefox.  If you have a Mac, or now even a PC, Safari is the browser that comes from Mac programmers. You may not realize that you can install multiple browsers and give each a test drive.  In our home most of our computers have multiple browsers because each has features that work differently with different sites.

CNET gave the latest version of Chrome its highest review  highlighting its ease of use and speed.   They give good marks to IE9, but not the full five stars as it is only for users of Vista or Windows 7, XP users can use IE8. Firefox has always had many fans of this open-source browser, and again CNET gives it 5 stars, it highest rating. Safari 5 gets another strong rating from CNET,4.5 stars,  but they do note that it lacks some of the features available from the competitors. 

When it comes down to it, you may find that one browser suits your browsing style but keep a second browser on your desktop to pinch hit now and then. I personally like the Facebook integration from IE9 but the apps availability on Chrome make it the preferred browser among the teenagers in my home.

After you install the browser, you can customize the security settings, but for most users I would recommend the default settings.  If you are working remotely, you may have to use a particular setup and browser, check with your company's IT department for any special instructions.

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