Regardless of whether you love or hate the Internet Explorer Web browser, one thing is for sure: Microsoft sure gives us administrators plenty of flexibility in how we deploy and manage the application. In Windows Server 2008 R2 we have over 1,000 Group Policy settings to customize IE behavior.
NOTE: In Windows Server 2008 R2, the Group Policy paths to the Internet Explorer maintenance settings are Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Internet Explorer and User Configuration\Windows Settings\Internet Explorer Maintenance
Some of the representative IE customizations that Windows administrators may want to specify include the following:
- Enforced HTTP proxy settings
- Corporate branding
- Remote access connection profiles
- Enforced security settings
You probably realize that Microsoft releases a new version of Internet Explorer every couple of years. What if your organization’s current implementation is based in Internet Explorer 8 and your team has decided to roll out Internet Explorer 9 to your user base? Should you allow your users to download the bits from Microsoft.com individually and install the software themselves? Uh, I don’t think so.
Alternatively, should you stage IE 9 via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and release the “stock” software by using Windows Update? Again, there are better ways to go about this. In this blog post I introduce a tool that is one of Microsoft’s best-kept secrets: the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK, pronounced “eek”).
It never ceases to amaze me how many of my fellow Windows systems administrators have never heard of IEAK. The goals of this blog post are to introduce you to the tool and show you how initial installation and configuration works. In future installments of this series we will build and deploy a completely tricked-out version of Internet Explorer 9 using various Microsoft technologies. Let’s get to work!
What is IEAK, Anyway?
Stated simply, the IEAK is an Internet Explorer deployment and maintenance tool. With IEAK you can customize IE to match your organization’s security requirements and preferences, and then deploy the browser either as a full installation package, or as a configuration-only .INS file.
Two preliminary points concerning IEAK with which you should be familiar are the following:
- Microsoft releases an IEAK to match every version of Internet Explorer. Thus, you will need to obtain IEAK 9 to deploy and manage IE 9, IEAK 8 to administer IE 8, and so on
- Your administrative workstation must already have the target IE version installed prior to your loading the IEAK toolkit. If, for instance, you try to install IEAK 9 on a Windows box that has Internet Explorer 8 installed, you will see the Installer Information message box that is displayed in Figure 1.
Incorrect Internet Explorer version installed
Installing IEAK in Windows Server 2008 R2
You can read about and download the IEAK software for free by visiting the Microsoft TechNet Web site:
In this brief article I will not review every IEAK installation screen with you; that is tedious and unnecessary. Instead, we’ll check out only those installation dialogs that require a thoughtful decision on your part.
The Choose License Type dialog box, shown in Figure 2, is the first of these screens. Here we have a choice to install IEAK 9 in one of three licensing modes:
- External Distribution as an ISP: Enables Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to build branded, customized IE browsers for their subscribers
- External Distribution as a Content Provider or Developer: Enables independent software vendors (ISVs) and value-added resellers (VARs) to deploy customized IE browsers to their customers
- Internal Distribution via a Corporate Internet: Enables Windows administrators (that is to say, us) to build and deploy customized IE browsers to our users
Selecting an IEAK license type
Throughout the rest of this series I will assume that we are using the Internal Distribution via a Corporate Intranet option.
The Organization Details dialog box prompts you to associate your Internet Explorer build with your organizational name (this field is required).
Specifying organization details
Once IEAK 9 is installed, open up your Start menu and examine the new entries:
- IEAK Help: IEAK documentation in compiled HTML (.CHM) file format
- IEAK Profile Manager: Tool to edit existing custom IE browser packages and/or perform maintenance on already deployed IE browsers in your organization
- Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 9: Tool to create custom IE browser packages
IEAK Start menu items
At this point we understand the purpose of IEAK and have downloaded and installed the software. In the next installment of this series we will create a custom IE 9 build by using the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard.
Thanks for reading! Please leave any feedback, questions, suggestions, etc. in the comments.