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REJOICE! Windows 7 users can get IE11 ... soon they'll have NO choice

Redmond's latest browser to hit Windows Update posthaste

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Following a swift development and testing process, Microsoft has delivered the final version of Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7, less than a month after it was made available to Windows 8 users via the 8.1 update.

Redmond shipped its first developer preview of IE11 for Windows 7 in July, and a second, final preview appeared in September, well before Windows 8.1 was pushed out to Windows Update on October 17.

By comparison, the final version of IE10 for Windows 7 didn't arrive until February 2013, about five months after Windows 8 was released to manufacturing, even though the first IE10 preview was released all the way back in April 2011.

But Microsoft is all about "rapid release" these days – and with competitors like Firefox and Chrome kicking out new versions every few weeks, the IE team is the last one that should sit on its laurels.

While Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are getting the IE11 love promptly, however, this time around it's Windows 8 users that are being left out in the cold. Redmond is not planning to make a version of IE11 for Windows 8, and if you try to run the Windows 7 installer on a Windows 8 system, you're given a gentle (if paradoxical) scolding.

Error message when trying to install IE11 preview on Windows 8

Oh, I'm sorry, did you expect software that runs on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to run on Windows 8, too?

Instead, the only way for Windows 8 users to get the latest version of IE is to install the Windows 8.1 update – all 3.2GB of it, on each PC – which includes the new browser.

Doing so has some advantages if you're an IE user. Microsoft likes to brag that the new version handily beats the latest Chrome on the WebKit SunSpider JavaScript benchmark – and it did in our tests, too – but these things are subjective. On Google's more comprehensive, application-based Octane 2.0 benchmark – just released – Chrome soundly drubs IE11 in nearly every test.

IE11 also boasts improved support for web standards, including some new ones that weren't included in previous versions. It offers support for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics and HTML5 video without plugins, and it has beefed up its internal web development tools.

But perhaps the one glaring advantage IE11 has over its competitors is that Microsoft has poured a lot of effort into making it touch-friendly, and in your humble Reg hack's opinion, IE11 really is easier to work with on a touchscreen device than its competitors. Still, how many touchscreen devices are still running Windows 7?

Whatever your reason for preferring IE, however, you can download IE11 for Windows 7 here in any of 95 languages.

Microsoft says it will begin rolling out IE11 as an automatic update for Windows 7 in the next few weeks, beginning with those systems that already have one of the IE11 preview releases installed. If you or your organization don't like the sound of that, head over here to grab the IE11 Automatic Update Blocker Toolkit for Windows 7, which will let you put the update off awhile – but you'd better move fast. ®

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