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How can I use Internet Explorer on a Mac?

written by: John Lister•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 12/5/2008

Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is no longer supported for Macs. We explore why this is and what your options are now.

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    Why would I want to use Internet Explorer on a Mac?

    Long-time PC users who switch to a Macintosh may prefer to continue using Internet Explorer as they feel more comfortable using it than switching to a new browser.

    Other users may find Internet Explorer offers better compatibility with the websites they visit most often than Apple’s own browser, Safari. There have been recent cases of some popular sites, such as eBay, working inconsistently in Safari.

    However, as we’ll explain below, these reasons really aren’t strong enough to make it worth getting round the problems of Internet Explorer on a Mac.

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    Is there a Mac edition of Internet Explorer?

    At one point, Internet Explorer was the standard browser on Macs for five years. Microsoft stopped developing the Mac edition in 2003 and removed it from its download site in 2006. Microsoft no longer recommends Mac users operate Internet Explorer.

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    Can I still run Internet Explorer on a Mac?

    You will find it fairly easy to search for and download the last edition of Internet Explorer for the Mac, which is version 5.2.3. However, this is not a particularly good idea as the software is quite outdated and many websites simply won’t be set up to work with it. Also, because the software is no longer supported by Apple or Microsoft, it won’t necessarily be updated to protect it against new viruses.

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    So am I stuck with sites which require Internet Explorer?

    There is a solution in Safari, which can change its user agent string. This is information sent to a website to tell it what type of computer and browser you are using. By sending the user agent string for Internet Explorer, your Mac can sometimes fool a site into working through Safari.

    To do this, you need to close Safari if it is already open, then open the Terminal and type in:

    defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeDebugMenu 1

    Next time you run Safari, there will be an extra menu titled Debug. Under User Agent, you will be able to select other browsers. This will be active until you either change it back, or close Safari.

    Bear in mind there is no guarantee this will work effectively on all sites. It’s probably safest not to do this on secure sites where you are typing in confidential information as it’s possible security measures might not work as designed.

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    What other options do I have?

    Rather than using either Internet Explorer or Safari, you can consider the various independently-produced browsers on the market. The two most prominent are arguably Mozilla’s Firefox and Opera, both of which have Mac editions. In many cases these can work on sites which cause problems in Safari.