Enterprise Mode is a new feature in Internet Explorer that allows businesses to use old web applications in modern versions of IE. This feature is designed to help businesses who still need Internet Explorer 8 for some reason to upgrade to a more modern, secure browser.

This feature is arriving in Internet Explorer 11 as part of Windows 8.1 Update 1, and will also be available as an update to IE 11 on Windows 7, Windows RT, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, and Windows Server 2012 R2.

How It Works

Internet Explorer’s Enterprise Mode is a special compatibility mode in Internet Explorer 11. A website that loads in Enterprise Mode renders like it did in Internet Explore 8. Some businesses have standardized on older versions of Internet Explorer and may use internal web applications that just don’t function with modern versions of Internet Explorer. Rather than stick with Internet Explorer 8 on Windows XP, which is reaching the end of its long life, Microsoft wants to encourage these businesses to upgrade to a modern version of Windows and Internet Explorer.

Websites can’t ask to be rendered in this mode, and it won’t appear in the normal menus as an option for typical users. Microsoft wants businesses to provide their own list of websites that will be automatically loaded in Enterprise Mode. It’s also available as a menu option that can be toggled on and off, but this menu option is hidden by default and must be enabled in the group policy editor.

If all your web applications work fine in modern versions of Internet Explorer, this feature isn’t for you. However, if you’re stuck with Internet Explorer 8 and can’t let it go, this feature is designed so you can upgrade.

RELATED: Screenshot Tour: What's New in Windows 8.1 Update 1

Enable Enterprise Mode with Group Policy

RELATED: What Is "Group Policy" in Windows?

If you need Enterprise Mode, there’s a good chance you’re using a Professional or Enterprise version of Windows and will have access to the group policy editor. You can’t enable Enterprise Mode on standard versions of Windows 8.1 or Home versions of Windows 7.

To launch the local group policy editor, press Windows Key + R, type gpedit.msc into the Run dialog, and press Enter.

Navigate to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorer.

Scroll down and locate the Let users turn on and use Enterprise Mode from the Tools menu option. Double-click it, set it to Enabled, and users will be able to enable Enterprise Mode manually.

System administrators can also enable the Use the Enterprise Mode IE website list option. You’ll need to create a list of websites you want rendered in Enterprise Mode and save it to a file — either on the local computer or on a website — and enter the address of that file here. Internet Explorer will load the list, read it, and render all the websites on it in Enterprise Mode.

RELATED: How to See Which Registry Settings a Group Policy Object Modifies

Some reports indicate that there are various registry entries that you can modify to enable this feature on Home or standard versions of Windows. However, it appears these options have been removed on the final version of Windows 8.1 Update 1. When we monitored the Group Policy Editor to see what registry entry it was changing, it was changing a Group Policy-only entry and not a standard registry entry you could change by hand.

Update: Microsoft’s Fred Pullen has informed us that there are still registry keys you can change to enable this feature on standard versions of Windows 8:

“The registry keys should still work, but may have changed from the pilot.  The ones that work are {HKLM|HKCU}\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\EnterpriseMode and consist of the strings “Enable” and “SiteList”.  Note that it’s in the “Policies” branch, and that some of the keys (“Internet Explorer\Main\EnterpriseMode”) may need to be created.  I’ve tested this in Windows 7 VMs, and the regkeys work for me on non-domain-joined machines.”

You’ll find more information about the registry keys in Microsoft’s detailed blog post about Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11.

Activate Enterprise Mode

With Enterprise Mode enabled, using it is as simple as tapping the Alt key in Internet Explorer, clicking the Tools menu, and selecting Enterprise Mode to toggle Enterprise Mode for the current website. If you’ve set up a list of websites that will be automatically opened in Enterprise Mode, you don’t even need to do this — it will all happen automatically.

If you just enabled the group policy setting, you’ll have to close and re-open Internet Explorer before this option will appear in the Tools menu.

It’s no surprise that this feature requires a Professional or Enterprise version of Windows. It’s named Enterprise Mode and intended for businesses with out-of-date websites, not typical home users.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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