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Ask How-To Geek: Halting Automatic IE Updates, Custom Windows 7 Folder Backgrounds, and Custom Ubuntu Bootloading

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Once a week we dip into our reader mailbag to answer your pressing tech questions. This week we’re taking a look at halting Internet Explorer from updating to version 9, customizing folder backgrounds in Windows 7, and customizing the Ubuntu bootloader.

Halting Internet Explorer Upgrade Nags

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Dear How-To Geek,

Is there a way that I can stop my computer from updating my Internet Explorer 8 to Internet Explorer 9?  Currently I have to de-select it every time my computer wants to update.  Despite my constantly de-selecting it, it is still there for the next update.  I don’t want to permanently, as in never, update to Internet Explorer 9, I just want the bugs found and fixed before I update. I’m running Windows 7.

Sincerely,

Cautious Upgrader

Dear Cautious,

Internet Explorer 9 has some pretty neat improvements but we can understand you wanting to error on the side of caution. Fortunately Microsoft itself has released a tool for doing just what you ask—largely to help companies which want to delay their upgrade path to ensure compatibility. They outline two solutions here, a local solution and a group policy/network wide solution. You’ll want to check out the single-user solution, the free Internet Explorer Blocker Toolkit. The toolkit essentially toggles the Internet Explorer 9 upgrade to an optional upgrade instead of a required upgrade and thus pushes it out of sight. When you want to upgrade you can do so by selecting the update and installing it.

Changing the Background Image on Windows 7 Folders

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Dear How-To Geek,

I recently upgraded to Windows 7 from a rather ancient Windows XP installation. I’ve found myself missing the silliest of things… in XP you could easily change the background of a folder to an image. There appears to be no such feature in Windows 7. Can I do the same thing in Windows 7? Custom background images were a part of my work flow!

Sincerely,

Crazing Customization

Dear Craving,

You’ve been looking in vain; Microsoft nixed the background-image feature and it is no where to be found in Windows 7. Fortunately there is a lightweight application that allows you to tweak the folders. It’s not quite as convenient as having the feature baked right into the folder menus but it’s pretty straight forward to use. Head over the The Windows Club and grab a copy of their Windows 7 Background Changer. Make sure to run it as an administrator (when we tested it on a Windows 7 64-bit box the application errored out immediately if it wasn’t run as admin).

Customizing the Ubuntu Bootloader Screen

Dear How-To Geek,

I’m on a real customization kick lately and have customized all sorts of things on my Windows 7/Ubuntu dual-boot machine. One of the few unconquered territories is the bootloader screen. The default interface is really ugly. I know it’s a small thing but when you’ve spent as much time as I have customizing stuff you want to go all out! Is there anything I can do about it?

Sincerely,

Bootload Moddin’

Dear Bootload,

It turns out you’re not alone in the desire to customize the bootloader. The default bootloader is GRUB and, while a rock solid bootloader, it’s pretty plain looking. Check out our guide to replacing GRUB with BURG—a highly customizable bootloader—right here. When you’re done you’ll be able to change the font, the background imagine, and more.


Have a question you want to put before the How-To Geek staff? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and then keep an eye out for a solution in the Ask How-To Geek column.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/25/11

Comments (17)

  1. Nick Miller

    GRUB2 lets you customize the bootscreen. I believe that it is almost ready for release.

  2. Tim Sneath

    Dear Cautious Upgrader,

    You might also want to take a look at this article on the IE blog, which talks about the steps we’ve taken to further increase reliability in IE9:
    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ie/archive/2011/04/21/how-you-help-us-improve-ie-s-reliability.aspx

    In particular, through the IE9 platform preview, beta and RC milestones, we identified and corrected the most common crash scenarios both in the product itself and in frequently used add-ons. We run extreme workloads on each build of the product during development (our “stress tests”). The results of these stress and longhaul tests continuously running on the final IE9 release run 6-7 times longer than IE8.

    While you’re welcome to postpone the upgrade from IE8 to IE9 — it’s your right to choose when you upgrade, after all — you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that IE9 is even more robust than the version you’ve been relying on. Good luck!

    Warm wishes,

    Tim Sneath, Microsoft

  3. The Geek

    @Tim

    We should point out that we did recommend via email that the reader switch to IE9 – it’s miles better!

  4. SDreamer

    Can’t you just right-click the update, and hit hide like you’re able to for most updates? Then when you’re ready, just hit the “show hidden updates” on the left side bar to see it?

  5. dood

    Dear Cautious Upgrader:

    Uninstall IE and use anything else, you’ll be much happier.

  6. Bob C

    I haven’t even upgraded to IE8 yet, such are the negative reviews I’ve seen. Wasn’t even aware there was an IE9. What’s safe and what isn’t? I really do not wish to get involved with trying to fix shortcomings. T

  7. Kae

    Honest to God, Jason, the expression really, truly, honestly “ERR on the side of caution.”

    Honest.

  8. KNowing N00b

    Bob C,
    IE8 is no fun, but is better than 7-. It got negative reviews because it fell short of it’s expectations. IE8 has more features and is (slightly) faster. IE9 supports HTML5 among other things. I used the beta and RC and detected only 3 bugs. The finished product is closest to perfections yet…I still hate IE in general though, Chrome and FF4 are better(especially chrome!)

  9. Roi

    Jeez this is the 2nd time I see this spelling error: “to ERR on the side of caution..” >:(

  10. Anon

    @Tim Sneath

    Hey Tim, care to explain the memory usage the Windows Gadget sidebar puts out after upgrading to IE9?

    With IE9 = Sidebar @ nearly 150-160MB.

    Without IE9 = Sidebar@ 60MB-70MB.

    I keep tabs on my system, tabs = stay alert n aware. Installed IE9, kept on noticing Sidebar was eating through ram like a rabbit in a lettuce field. I google’d the problem, seen a couple people stating they removed IE9, that removing IE9 fixed the problem. So I tried it, my sidebar back to 60mb – 70MB.

    ———

    Thanks How-To Geek for another great article. Will be using Windows 7 Background Changer.

  11. Anon

    @dood

    I just seen your comment & i lol’d.

    ForReal. Uninstall IE and use anything else, you’ll be much happier.

  12. Silver Dragon Sys

    @ Tim Sneath,

    I too am curious as to the trend MS seems to have lately of memory intensive software releases.
    True, products like Windows 7 and IE 9 do perform better than their predecessors, but they use astonishingly large amounts of HDD space and RAM. I know that disk space and memory capacity has greatly increased over the years, but does that mean that software developers have to use all that extra? You would think that software design has advanced enough to provide the quality we want (and deserve with the cost of MS products) without consuming 100x more resources than its first inception.

    Just Curious,

  13. sVen

    In Win Vista, I use Logon Studio to change my boot-log screen. It’s quick and easy, and I’ve never had a problem with it. You should see the lady who greets me every morning. And you can put as many pics in it as you want. For a while, I kept it in Quick-Launch, but I don’t change it as often anymore, so I took it back off of Q-L.

  14. J-man

    All you people are LAME. Everyone wants to say bad about Microsoft’s IE9 because of the past problems they had with other browsers. Did anyone care to even give it a try before badmouthing it? Seriously? I’ve been using it since the beta stages and never really encountered any issues with it. Try using it for a month and see the difference, it’s heads to head with chrome. Firefox 4 is a RAM hog, and don’t tell me it isn’t because even using 1 tab in firefox, I’ve seen it consume about 512-1.5Gb of memory. It’s speedy, but they need to out with the old code, Now, chrome, that browser is sleek, doesn’t use much system resources. Safari, it would be in the same boat with firefox on memory usage, but it’s fast like chrome, hence they’re both based on webkit.

    I’m not saying these browsers are bad, I’m saying Mozilla needs to get onboard with better programming, and so does Apple.

    Especially many IT departments, the people need to be either five finger slapped or removed from their job, they hold back the upgrades on many programs such as Internet explorer 9 and WINDOWS 7. I find these products to be very stable from Microsoft. I don’t want to hear any excuses on why your older programs don’t work on a newer operating system, it’s your job to find alternatives and teach people these alternatives.

    Also the guy with the sidebar issue, did you even check what gadgets are consuming that much memory, because it really isn’t a program error, more like the end user who installed the update. I have installed IE9 on many computers and it really doesn’t bother with anything. Check for updated gadgets, maybe that’ll solve your problem, or if you have an issue with it, exit or kill the process for it, it’s basically useless anyways.

    Quit complaining about memory consumption, if you got a 64-bit operating system and 2+Gb of RAM it shouldn’t be an issue. If you have less than that or have an older system, quit making excuses either upgrade your memory or upgrade that tired old computer. People always want something to complain about, and I’m not complaining I’m actually stating the obvious here. I’m a chrome user, and I am multiplatform, meaning I use other OS’s besides windows.

  15. J-man

    @Silver Dragon Sys
    Get with the program, upgrade and quit complaining. As technology advances the more memory you’re going to consume. That’s how technology works. Hence Windows Vista pushed for newer technology. If it weren’t for Vista we’d be using monitors at 1024 x 768; DirectX 9 and most of all graphics cards that don’t decode or convert videos for us. People didn’t want to spend the premium for Vista and it’s hardware requirements, hate to break it to you, but Windows 7 uses the same.

    Also everyone else has something memory intensive, not too many people don’t want their program running in the pagefile cause’ its slower that way. Look at Adobe with photoshop.

  16. Anon

    @J
    It’s far from Chrome.
    Chrome
    Opera
    FF4
    IE9

    My FF4 with 21 Extensions enabled & 30 Userstyles enabled with 8 tabs opened is using 260MB ram.

    For it to consume 512-1.5Gb of memory with one tab, the problem lies with you.

    Windows 7 is fine, best operating system ever. It supports all my latest hardware for example trim for my SSD & DX 11 for my gfx card.

    Sure IE9 might be stable but it raises memory usage on other microsoft based programs.

    @J
    Quoted from you. “Also the guy with the sidebar issue, did you even check what gadgets are consuming that much memory, because it really isn’t a program error, more like the end user who installed the update.”

    Did you actually read my full comment, the way you responded I’d say not. Go back up and reread it slowly for yourself to comprehend much better. Specially the part about before and after IE9 installation.

    @J
    “it’s basically useless anyways”
    And how is it useless? I use it for CPU, Memory,Network,OS Drive usage, GPU observer, calender and weather.The sidebar is a very useful tool. Along with it I use Aida46, Task Manager with working mem set at top, to keep an eye on what is using most memory etc and resource monitor to watch the reads & writes on my SSD.

    @J
    Not like myself but there are still people out there that cannot afford a nice system and using a hand-me-down pentium3 with 256-512 mb ram.

    @J
    “If it weren’t for Vista we’d be using monitors at 1024 x 768; DirectX 9″
    o.o are you kidding me? Dood, I was blasting away with cod2 with dx9 1280×1024 in XP before vista was even in beta. For example, my card is DX11, Win7 OS is DX10 but I can still play DX11 games in DX11 mode with a DX 11 card.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_of_Duty_2
    Release date October 25, 2005.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Vista
    Release date Retail: January 30, 2007

    After this comment I am not gonna reply back to your nonsense. You should get your facts straight about everything you stated here “stating the obvious”. No!

  17. J-man

    @Anon, to make you look more of an idiot, I don’t spend time watching what program consumes memory that makes you look like an obsessive compulsive person. It shouldn’t matter anyways because of how much memory these computers have now-a-days. Also, Windows7 removed the sidebar and coded the base into the explorer, whereas in Windows Vista you had it affixed to the right or the left of the screen, who the hell needs all those gadgets anyways, cept for geeky people who need to monitor every aspect of their system which shouldn’t be a big deal [like I stated many times] we have plenty of memory, why should it even matter how much a program consumes.

    Also those Pentium III systems, they cannot run windows vista and windows 7 natively. There is lack of support for that processor, I know there are videos all over YouTube, but it really cannot run full throttle on those machines. If that they’re probably running Windows XP on those machines, if not; then windows 2000 or equivalent.

    But for the Windows Vista argument on gaming it did change the way gamers code their games to make them more lifelike. Also I wasn’t stating gaming, I was more stating HD and whatnot, and you may claim windows XP natively supports it, but not really nor does it know how to use resources correctly on DDR2 and newer types of memory or across quad core and dual core processors. Can you play that game on that computer at 2560×1600 resolutions? I’d think not. But what I was stating was that Windows Vista/7 did push for newer and faster technology.

    For the last, the reason why you’re bashing IE, theoretically it’s because it doesn’t have any add-ons like those web browsers do.

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