How To Switch Your Parents' Web Browser Without Them Knowing

If your relatives are still using Internet Explorer 6 despite your advice, maybe it's time to take matters into your own hands. Here's a slightly evil way of switching their default browser without them knowing.You'll probably be doing a lot of family tech support these Christmas holidays, but The Atlantic notes that if you're going to do one thing, update their browser for them. While they recommend sticking with whatever browser they have, we thought of something better: move them over to a self-updating browser, like Firefox or Chrome, without them knowing. Since it always updates itself, that's one less problem you'll ever have to deal with. Here are some ways to sneak the change past them.

Firefox or Chrome?

The first question is whether to install Chrome or Firefox. Chrome's updates are more sneaky (you never even see that it's updating), while Firefox's UI is a bit more similar to IE and other old browsers — what with the square tabs, dedicated search box and customisability that lets you trick them even more. It's up to you; while I personally think Firefox is the better choice, you can probably sneak either past them.

Change The Shortcut's Icon

First, just install Firefox or Chrome, put a shortcut on the desktop, and change its name and icon. Call it "Internet", or if you're feeling like a true identity thief, "Internet Explorer". Then right-click on it, head to Properties, go to the Shortcut tab, and hit Change Icon. Choose Browse and navigate to C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer and grab an icon from there. Child's play.

Import Their Bookmarks

Next, if they have any favourites, you'll want to import them from their old browser. In Firefox, just head to Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks, then go to Import > Import from Another Browser. In Chrome, click the wrench icon, go to Bookmarks > Import Bookmarks and Settings.

Make The UI Look A Little More Like Internet Explorer

If you're using Firefox, now's your chance to really pull the wool over their eyes. Make sure you keep the dedicated Google box in Firefox's toolbar (by right-clicking on the toolbar, choosing customise, and dragging the Google box to the toolbar), and while you're in the customise window move the reload button back to the left of the address bar. Get rid of the add-on bar at the bottom, if it's showing. I'd also recommend ditching the big orange "Firefox" button, lest they wise up to your ploy. Just hit the orange button and go to Options > Menu Bar to show the menu bar at all times. Show the bookmarks bar (they'll like the quick access), install a theme like BlueSky or Neofox and hand them their shiny new version of Internet Explorer.

If they notice anything different, just tell them that their software updated itself while you were freeing up hard drive space, and that due to "the cloud", software updates are now out of their control. Ease their mind by telling them it'll help them watch the latest and greatest YouTube videos, or guard them from identity theft, or one of any other half-truths you can tell them. They'll probably get used to it pretty quickly, and if you update their IE to IE9, they probably wouldn't go back even if they could (because that UI is a much bigger change than IE6 to Firefox).

Got any other evil tips for parental tech support? Share them in the comments.


    hah! this, I like. I'm glad I'm not the only one whose mum/dad is stubborn with this stuff.

    My dad still refuses to have ANY kind of javascript or anything on. And then complains when sites don't work properly. (sorry dad)

      My dad complains that I disabled Javascript by default on (most) sites and compiled a whitelist of sites he uses, but inevitably left some out... thing is the ones I left out were for a *reason* but that didn't seem to matter.

      P.S. Is your dad actually going to read this? Is the apology necessary!

    I just tell them the Chrome link is 'what you press to get your hotmail'. Then, 'and from there you can go to other 'places', like Google!'. Works a treat.

    And I'm glad to not be a support rep, imagine going through a long support call after being told that they use "The Microsoft Internet thingy", not having anything work, and then realising their smartarse kids swapped browsers on them. And having to start from scratch.

    (chuckle) the support rep:"damn, it's that post from lifehacker ..... "

    Just updated them to Lion—not sure why all this subterfuge is needed. ;-)

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now