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What Are ActiveX Controls?

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 11/17/2010

When an information bar pops up to alert you that a website is trying to install an ActiveX control, what do you do? Find out what ActiveX controls are by reading this Computer Security article.

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    Do you fall into group 1 or 2?

    Install ActiveX Control (Click on image to enlarge)

    Chances are you’ve seen the message shown above - or, at least, one similar to it - numerous times, and chances are you take one of the following two actions when you receive this warning:

    1. You always ignore the warning, fearing that if you install it, evil cyber-space monkeys will highjack your computer, steal all your personal information and riddle your PC with worms and viruses, deeming it nothing more then a clunky paper weight.


    2. You always click “Install ActiveX Control”, close your eyes and hope those evil monkeys will let you off lightly this time.

    Whether you fall into group 1 or group 2, always taking the same action can create problems and put a damper on your browsing experience. But before we get to that, let’s find out what, exactly, ActiveX controls are.

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    What are ActiveX controls?

    ActiveX controls - sometimes referred to as modules, objects or applets - are a Microsoft technology that, basically, enables programs to share their functionality. For example, it's an ActiveX control that enables you to view videos directly within a browser window instead of having to open Windows Media Player. These controls are most commonly used to add functionality to Microsoft's web browser, Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer cannot, by itself, display Silverlight or Flash animations, play QuickTime videos or display PDF files. It's ActixeX controls that enable the browser to do these things. Some ActiveX controls come pre-loaded with Windows or are automatically loaded when you install an application, such as Adobe Flash. Others you are prompted to download when you visit a website.

    For a more detailed explanation (with lots of technical gobbledygook) see this article from Microsoft.

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    Please continue on to part 2 of this article series to learn what the risks of installing ActiveX controls are, some problems you could encounter if you always ignore, or install, ActiveX controls, how to know if a website is safe, and how to enable/disable ActiveX controls.

ActiveX Controls

What are ActiveX controls? Are they safe to install? How do you disable or enable ActiveX controls? How do you know if a website is safe? Find answers to these questions and more by reading this Computer Security article series.
  1. What Are ActiveX Controls?
  2. What Are the Risks of Installing ActiveX Controls?
  3. How to Enable, Disable & Remove ActiveX Controls