This article explains how to disable Internet Explorer enhanced security in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 by turning off IE ESC in Server Manager.

One of the first things I usually do when I install a new Windows Server in a test environment, is to turn off Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration (IE ESC). I am talking about this little prompts that get on your nerves whenever you open a website in Internet Explorer on a Windows Server. I described how to disable Internet Explorer Enhanced Security in Windows Server 2003 a while back. Since it is one of the popular articles here on 4syosps and because the procedure is different on Windows Server 2008, I decided to post a follow-up to save you from this constant security prompts.

Disable Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Windows Server 2008 R2 - IE

Usually, when you explain publicly how to turn off a security feature you will be confronted with protests in a moralizing undertone. Feel free to do this in a comment box below. I appreciate all kinds of objections. But let me explain first why I think that disabling Internet Explorer Enhanced Security is a good thing to do.

First of all, one shouldn’t open web pages on production server, anyway. So the best way to enhance security would be if one could uninstall IE entirely. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t allow this, though IE ESC comes very close to a disabled Internet Explorer. Not because it really enhances security, but because it makes IE literally useless.

I just tried to access Microsoft’s homepage on a freshly installed Windows Server 2008. I had to click about ten times on this security prompt until the page was finally displayed. If you decide not to add the site to the trusted sites zone you might get away with just six clicks. If you click on any link the click orgy will usually start again. On other sites it might even be worse. I wonder who really uses IE on a server this way. And, I seriously doubt, that those who really do, know what they are actually adding to their trusted site zones all the time.

Anyway, my recommendation is to use Opera if you really have to access web pages on a productive server. This browser is more secure than IE or Firefox because the bad guys usually only focus on popular browsers.

Disable Internet Explorer Enhanced.Security.Windows Server 2008 R2 - Server Manager

In a test environment, where one doesn’t need this extra security, it makes sense to just disable Internet Explorer Enhanced Security. In Windows Server 2003, one has to uninstall the corresponding Windows Component. In Windows Server 2008, this doesn’t work anymore. You have to click on the root folder in Server Manager. Then you scroll down to the Security Information Section and click “Configure IE ESC”. You can turn off IE ESC for Administrators and/or for users. The latter probably only makes sense in a Terminal Server environment.

55 Comments
  1. Aaron 14 years ago

    Annoying as IE ESC is (and yeah I almost always disable it too), I think it's bad advice to increase the attack surface of the server by removing IE ESC and installing Opera. Less targeted software does not make it more secure. Not browsing the web on your server is the best defense.

  2. steve 14 years ago

    The fact is, if you check sites like Secunia, Opera IS and has historically been, WAY more secure. Not to mention if you care to learn Opera's features it will demonstrate just how capable it is in such a small package. Michael's advice is right-on.

  3. 1337Ops 14 years ago

    Yo- MS makes us click so many prompts we should all get free carpel tunnel therapy. I agree, IE and Outlook Exp of all things should not be installed on a server.
    Who want's MS to create a true blue admin login that doesn't give ares loads of popups, ask you every time if you are 'sure' (ie. RDP 6 blows - I mean come on...). Maybe one day boyz!
    I say disable it, the only good thing about windows is that it will keep us all employed for a LONG LONG time.

  4. Aaron, I agree that not browsing the web is most secure. But you know that also applies to any desktop PC. 😉 Seriously, there are only rare cases where you really need a web browser on a productive server. However, in those cases I wouldn’t use IE. Even though IE’s security improved lately, it is still dangerous to surf the web with this browser in a security sensitive environment. And I don’t see how the bombardment with confirmation prompts could improve security. I absolutely disagree with your view about less targeted software. It is simply a matter of fact that popular software is less secure. Why do you think that Mac users don’t have to worry so much about viruses? Because Apple’s developers are smarter?

    Steve, you’re right Opera is really a nice browser. I just hope that not so many people will find out about this. I am quite sure that it then wouldn’t be the most secure browser anymore. I am also using Opera on the desktop whenever I surf in murky waters.

    1337Ops, you’re right. The best thing about these new security prompts is that more Windows admins are needed now because of the time they waste with clicking all day on them. 😉

  5. G.Crow 14 years ago

    I disagree with installing Opera, sorry. In my experience, installing non-production third party software like that WILL result in unpatched/unupdated software sooner or later. This means that even though Opera is more secure, one year down the road half your install base will not be, since no one has logged in to manually update the software.

    On the other hand, yes, they shouldn't be surfing the web anyhow...

  6. You’re right, this is certainly a problem. However, it applies to any third party software. The point is that an outdated Opera is still more secure than the latest IE or Firefox.

  7. Ian 14 years ago

    Knowing this is absolutely essential if you, like me, run 2K8 server in a virtual machine for software development/testing purposes. Being able to browse the web from inside the VM is very handy.

  8. Brent 14 years ago

    The design philosophy of protecting the computer from the user is foolish, especially in the case where the user is an administrator. No admin is going to be surfing nefarious sites on a production server anyway. He is going to be downloading patches and doing useful things. If you don't trust your admin to know how to safely browse the web, then you are likely in allot more trouble than this.

  9. yfki 14 years ago

    Anyone who has used Vista Activation Tool, ServerManager will no longer work

    You can diable IE ESC by running this...

    "C:\Windows\system32\rundll32.exe" C:\Windows\system32\iesetup.dll,IEShowHardeningDialog

  10. Brent, I think that from Microsoft’s perspective this is just a statistical issue. Implementing such “features” just means that the number of security incidents will go down. So those who are careful have to suffer, too because there certainly are quite a few admins who don’t consider using IE on a productive server.

    yfki, what Vista Activation Tool do you mean?

  11. Tony 13 years ago

    I saw a similar writeup over at groovypost. http://www.groovypost.com/howto/microsoft/ie/disable-ie-enhanced-security-configuration-in-windows-server-2008/

    He also mentioned Terminal Services. Can you confirm this? I need to make sure.

  12. Core User 13 years ago

    Does anyone know how to disable this feature for Server Core?

  13. Ragnar 12 years ago

    Thanks! Just what I needed.

  14. Mikey 12 years ago

    Thanks, this is exactly what I was looking for and you pointed me in the right direction perfectly. Thanks!

  15. Lee 12 years ago

    Tremendously helpful. Thank you so much.

  16. Adam C 12 years ago

    Thanks! 🙂

  17. Azhar 12 years ago

    The article was helpful. Thanks.

  18. Nick 11 years ago

    Thanks for the info. The setting was right in front of me but I couldn't see it because my monitor was in the way 🙂

  19. peteh 11 years ago

    Helped me a lot. Thanks muchly.

    I am one who falls into the developer category. I do write services as well as applications. And so I have WS 2008 and I do browse as well. We devs have a tendency to 'google' quite frequently like the rest of the general population.

    We just look at 'less interesting' stuff on sites that tend to be a bit less dangerous then sights we might visit at home.

    As soon as I am able, I will set up Firefox and the 'No Script' and 'AdBlock' Add-Ons. To me, that is as safe as it gets with any browser.

    Thanks again.

  20. sankoch 11 years ago

    Really helpful. Thank you so much...... 🙂

  21. Mark 11 years ago

    Must say, I totally agree on the "Dont use the internet on a server".

    With updates going through a application shall we say there is no need for it.

    I do not plan on putting opera or anything else like that on my servers. We have 10 ranging from PDC's DC's email and imaging. They have all worked fine because no one touches them.

    Although as network manager I will never install another internet browser. You can sit there and say its more secure but its not. Its less targetted.

    If everyone switched to Opera right now I promise you it will get attacked and leaked through much easier then IE as much as I hate MS.

  22. Paul 11 years ago

    Just turn it back on when you are finished.
    I forgot it was right in front of my face.
    Thanks

  23. JoePete 11 years ago

    I find the paranoia about not using a Web browser on a server, even a production server, a bit humorous.

    Take a look at the traffic going in and out of that server - already there is probably a lot going over port 80 even exclusive of the Web server. Regardless on any number of ports you have incoming and outgoing traffic to the Internet. Now, if you all are saying that you don't want to be using a browser because you are afraid of user error - well that is an access problem. One would assume the only folks with a login to a production server know what they are doing.

  24. Tom L 11 years ago

    Thanks for the info on disabling enhanced security. I just want to start installing Exchange 2010 and it made it impossible to even start the process. Unbelieveable to me because I have been installing Exchange on servers since 4.o was new and never have I been blocked to even prep for the install before.I don't care about opera and all the rest of the arguments because being a net admin of over 200 users I know it does not matter what the program is. The weakest link is always between the Keyboard and the chair. Thanks again for the helpful post in the beginning. Tom

  25. vadim 11 years ago

    Thanks for the info! I had to reboot the machine for the settings to be applied. Probably, just a relogin would have be sufficient, though.

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