Windows Tip Sheet

New and Improved ActiveX?

The latest Internet Explorer update aims to make ActiveX more secure, but not without some difficulty.

Still using Internet Explorer? Well, you'll want to get right on Microsoft's latest update for IE and ActiveX, which applies to WinXP SP2 and Win2003 SP1. It changes the way that IE handles the Web pages for certain ActiveX controls, such as Acrobat Reader, Apple QuickTime Player, Macromedia Flash, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer and the Java Virtual Machine. You know, the stuff you actually use on occasion.

The trick is that you'll probably get this update through Automatic Updates, and it'll probably tick you off, because it actually changes the way some common ActiveX controls function.

After installing this update, you'll find yourself unable to interact with the ActiveX controls until the controls are specifically enabled. To do so, manually click the control -- clicking being difficult to automate, so it's sort of a safeguard to ensure you're activating the control. Web developers can do some magic to their Web pages to work around this behavior (I'll give you the URL below).

Other fun issues that can occur include resetting applications on x64 systems so that they display their first-run dialog boxes again, as well as possibly reset other settings, as if you'd just installed the application. Older versions of the Google Toolbar may explode without warning. Scrolling on a Web page that contains an ActiveX control may result in the control not rendering properly. And so forth.

The update is intended to improve the security of Web pages that use ActiveX controls; you really start to wonder, though, how long this ActiveX thing is going to truck along, or if Microsoft will come up with something that's a little more intrinsically safe at some point so we can stop dealing with all of this nonsense. Anywho, if you've been seeing these symptoms in your environment, check out the Knowledge Base (KB) article below and see what can be done to stop it.

Additional Resources:

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at

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