We recently announced via the Exploring IE Blog our intention to start automatically upgrading Internet Explorer (IE) to IE8 for XP and to IE9 for Vista and Windows 7 this month.  You can block this from occurring, and by default it occurs only for users which have opted into automatic updates.  See below for details and let me know if you have any questions.

Q. What’s happening?
A. In line with the broader industry shift to automatic updates, we are working to make sure that Windows customers have the safest, most up to date Web browsing experience possible. In January 2012, the company will begin automatically updating Internet Explorer (IE) users to the latest version of IE available for their version of Windows. This includes auto updating IE8 and IE7 users on Vista SP2 and Windows 7 RTM and SP1 to IE9 as well as auto updating IE6 and IE7 users on Windows XP SP3 to IE8. We are starting this in just two countries initially, Brazil and Australia, and then scaling gradually to worldwide.  This does not apply to Windows Server operating systems.

Q. What will users need to do to receive the update
A. Nothing. Users will not receive a prompt nor need to take any action, if they have Automatic Updates enabled in Windows. After the upgrade the next time they use Internet Explorer it will show them they’ve been upgraded.

Q: What is the difference between this “auto-update” through WU and our past updates of IE through WU?
A: Internet Explorer has been offered through Windows Update previously, but unlike other “Important” updates, users needed to initiate the IE9 install. What we are announcing is an evolution of this approach. For the 90% of Windows users who have opted into automatic updates, this simplification removes repetitive steps and allows users to simply opt-in to automatic updates through Windows Update and have IE seamlessly upgraded on their PC with no additional user action. The upgrade is still delivered through the Windows Update system and only to users who have opted in for automatic updates. 

Q. How will the Upgrade be delivered?
A. The update will ship as a high-priority update for XP and Important class update for Vista and Windows 7

Q: How are businesses supposed to deal with these updates pushed to them?
A: We give business control as we always have with updates to the browser. We look at what we are doing with auto updates as an evolution of our update model. Businesses who manage their PCs or have installed the Windows Update Blocker Tool will continue to have control over what updates their PCs receive. Additionally, and this is what really differentiates us from other browser vendors, we will continue support previous versions of IE along with the operating system. That means for business users they will continue to have the latest security and performance updates for IE as long as they are using a supported version of Windows. Businesses can continue to control when they upgrade Internet Explorer by either using management software in the form of WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) or using the IE Blocker Toolkits for IE8 and/or IE9.

Q: What options are available to people who need a specific version of IE that isn’t IE9? Maybe their bank doesn’t support IE9 or they need IE9 for a piece of software they use every day?
A: IE9 contains support for IE7 through IE9 browser modes as well as standards support for Quirks Mode, IE7, IE8 and IE9.  Further, if individuals want to uninstall a specific Internet Explorer update they have the choice to do so.  Detailed instructions for uninstalling IE9 are available at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/how-do-i-install-or-uninstall-internet-explorer-9