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Internet Explorer Plug-Ins and Windows 8

Programmers create little software tidbits called plug-ins that allow your computer’s web browser (probably Internet Explorer if you're using Windows 8) to display flashy items like Java, Flash, RealPlayer, QuickTime, Silverlight, and others. Years ago, computer programmers abandoned their boring old TV sets and turned to their exciting new computers for entertainment. Now, they’re trying to turn their computers back into TV sets.

You’ll know when you’re installing a plug-in when Internet Explorer sticks a threatening notice in your face.

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What’s the problem? If Internet Explorer says it needs a plug-in or the latest version of the software, click the Install or Yes button — only if you can trust the program. It’s often difficult to tell the good programs from the evil ones. Meanwhile, the following plug-ins are both free and safe:

  • QuickTime: The free version of QuickTime plays some sound and video formats that Microsoft’s Media Player can’t handle.

  • Adobe Flash: This double-edged download plays the most distracting advertisements on websites as well as most online videos and animations.

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader: Another popular freebie, Acrobat Reader lets you view documents as if they’re printed on paper. The Start screen’s Reader program can also handle some formats used by Adobe Acrobat Reader, but not as well.

  • Microsoft Silverlight: Microsoft’s challenge to the hugely popular Flash, this software also plays movies and ads.

Beware of sites that try to slip in other programs when you download the plug-in. For example, some programs try to sneak in their partner’s browser toolbar along with their plug-in. Examine the check boxes carefully and deselect any that you don’t want, need, or trust before you click the Install or Download button.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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