How to Fix It When Internet Explorer Won't Open

How to troubleshoot and fix Internet Explorer not opening

Person using Task Manager on a PC laptop to find Internet Explorer


Internet Explorer works fine most of the time, but there are times when it won't open no matter what you try. There are a number of reasons this can happen, but if you work from the simplest solution to the more complex ones, you should get it working again in no time.

Internet Explorer became obsolete when Windows 10 rolled out, and Microsoft doesn't support it anymore. If you're still using IE on an older system, this article is for you. Also, you may find these tactics can be applied to the Microsoft Edge browser or any other browser you're having trouble with, even on the latest and greatest versions of Windows.

Common Fixes When Internet Explorer Won't Open

If the problem isn't too serious, there are a few things you can do that can fix the problem quickly. Before you dig further, try the following quick fixes:

  • Right-click on the taskbar and select Task Manager. Look for Internet Explorer in the Processes tab. If it's there, close it.
  • Restart your computer. Often this resolves issues when IE won't open.
The Internet Explorer process running on Windows

Many times, the Internet Explorer app stays running in the background when you close the application. By closing the process or restarting your computer, it will allow Internet Explorer to open again.

Internet Explorer Won't Open When You Click a Link

Sometimes, when you click a URL on a website Internet Explorer doesn't open the link, especially if the web browser is already open. There are many reasons this can happen:

  • The setting for the default web browser gets corrupted.
  • Installing other software sometimes changes important internet settings.
  • Add-ons can interfere with your browser fully launching.
  • Malicious software may have changed or corrupted important IE registry keys.

Whatever the reason, there are a few things you can do to fix it.

Check Your Default Browser

Make sure your default browser for opening web links is still set to Internet Explorer.

  1. Select the Start menu, and type Internet Options. Select the Internet Options utility.

    Opening Internet Options in Windows
  2. Select the Programs tab. Under the Opening Internet Explorer section, select Make Internet Explorer the default browser.

    Internet Explorer settings in Windows
  3. This opens the default apps utility. Scroll down to the Web browser section. If Internet Explorer isn't already set as default, select the web browser that is.

    The default Web browser in the Default apps utility
  4. In the pop-up window that lists all of your installed browsers, select Internet Explorer.

    The default browser in Windows settings
  5. Once you set the default browser to Internet Explorer, restart your computer and try opening Internet Explorer again. All links should start in IE now.

Set Web File Associations to Internet Explorer

If the above solution fix didn't solve your problem, your default app for opening HTML or web files may not be Internet Explorer. Here's how to fix that:

  1. Follow the steps above to get to the Default apps utility. Scroll down and select Choose default apps by file type.

    Selecting default apps by file type
  2. Scroll down to the web files (.htm and .html), and select the current default web browser. Then, select Internet Explorer from the list.

    Selecting Internet Explorer from the default apps list
  3. This sets HTM and HTML files with Internet Explorer as the default app. Restart Internet Explorer and all web links should now open in Internet Explorer by default.

Internet Explorer Won't Open Due to Add-Ons

If the Internet Explorer app won't open at all, it could be related to an add-on you've installed. Some add-ons are known to interfere with the web browser's normal operation or even corrupt system files.

You can verify if this is the problem by running Internet Explorer with add-ons disabled.

  1. Select the Start menu and type CMD. Select the Command Prompt Desktop app.

    The Command Prompt desktop app in Windows
  2. Type cd/ and press Enter. Then type "c:\program files\internet explorer\iexplore.exe" -extoff and press Enter.

    Make sure to include the quotes.

    The command to open Internet Explorer without add-ons
  3. This opens Internet Explorer without any add-ons enabled. If IE opens in this mode, then you know that one of the add-ons you've installed is likely causing the issue.

Enable Select Internet Explorer Add-Ons

If add-ons are the problem, you can use the Add-On Manager to turn them all off and then only enable the ones you really need one at a time.

To enable add-ons one at a time:

  1. Open Internet Explorer with add-ons disabled using the steps above. Then select the gear icon at the upper right and select Manage add-ons.

    Selecting Manage add-ons in Internet Explorer
  2. In the Add-On Manager, right-click each add-on one at a time and select Enable.

    Enabling Add-ons in Internet Explorer
  3. Only enable the add-ons you absolutely need. If you notice any of those cause the same problem again, disable the add-on and remove it from Internet Explorer.

Internet Explorer Won't Open Because of Corrupt Files

Another cause of problems for Internet Explorer is malicious software that's corrupted system files. To see if this is causing your issue, restart your computer in safe mode. This ensures that none of the malicious apps start when your computer does.

To start your computer in safe mode, restart your computer and hold down the Shift key while it reboots. After the computer restarts, select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings > Restart. After the computer restarts again, follow the on-screen instructions to start in safe mode.

Once your computer launches in safe mode, try starting Internet Explorer. If it launches correctly, then you know the issue you were having before restarting your computer in safe mode may have been malicious software. If malicious software modified your Internet Explorer settings, you have a couple of options to set things back to normal. You can reset your Internet Explorer settings or reinstall Internet Explorer.

Reset Internet Explorer Settings

  1. Open your computer's Control Panel and select Internet Options.

    Selecting Internet Options in the Control Panel
  2. Select the Advanced tab. Under the Reset Internet Explorer settings section, select Reset.

    The Reset option in Internet Options
  3. Enable Delete personal settings. Select Reset to finish the IE reset process.

    Resetting Internet Explorer settings
  4. Once Internet Explorer resets, restart your computer and try opening it again. If it works, then you've resolved the issue.

Update Internet Explorer

If resetting Internet Explorer doesn't work, you may need to update it. You can repair your installation by visiting the Microsoft website and downloading the latest update. Once you install the latest update, restart your computer. This should replace any Internet Explorer DLL files that might have been corrupted by malicious software.

Even if resetting or updating Internet Explorer settings fixes the issue, you may still have malicious software on your computer. It's a good idea to run a full antivirus scan.

Reinstall Internet Explorer

Finally, if none of the above options worked and you still can't get Internet Explorer to open, you need to fully reinstall Internet Explorer.

Since the web browser is included as a Windows feature, you can't uninstall it and reinstall it like a normal app. Instead, you need to disable and then reenable it as a Windows feature. To do that:

  1. Go into the Control Panel and select Programs and Features.

  2. Then select Turn Windows features on or off.

    Programs and Features in Windows
  3. In the Windows Features window, you'll see Internet Explorer enabled. Disable it, and select OK.

  4. Reboot the computer to finalize the uninstall. Once your computer reboots, repeat the above steps and reenable Internet Explorer. You'll need to restart your computer one more time to finish the reinstallation.

    Internet Explorer in Windows Features

Internet Explorer Not Opening

If you've gotten this far in this article, you should find that Internet Explorer is working fine again.

To avoid the issue from happening again, make sure to install good antivirus and anti-malware scanning software. Also, ensure that Internet Explorer is still working after you run Windows updates. If it isn't, you can use the steps listed above to fix it again.