Windows Desktop Update

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Windows Desktop Update is an update released by Microsoft along with Internet Explorer 4 in order to integrate Internet Explorer into Windows in order to compete with Netscape Navigator.

The description of Windows Desktop Update (in the Internet Explorer installers) is "Provides true web integration into your desktop experience."

It was first present in Windows Nashville.

Compatibility and Installation

Windows Desktop Update can be installed on Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 by installing Internet Explorer 4.

Windows Desktop Update is also present in Internet Explorer 5 and Internet Explorer 6, but it is not displayed (and installed) by default in the installer.

It is present in all versions of Microsoft Windows after Windows 98, including the NT Line (Starting from Windows 2000).


All editions of Windows that featured the Windows Desktop Update pre-installed made minor modifications to it, mostly in the File Explorer.

Original Windows Desktop Update

The original Windows Desktop Update shows a blue band on the top with a large icon of the folder.

Windows 98

Windows 98 featured a Sidebar with a medium-sized icon, common folder actions, and folder description.

Windows ME and Windows 2000

Windows ME and Windows 2000 featured the sidebar and a background in the main folder icon view.

Windows XP

Windows XP only used a few features of Windows Desktop Update, and hid (although still accessible if one looks closely) the other Windows Desktop Update features such as Active Desktop, and the Improved Start Menu (it was replaced by Windows XP's new start menu).

It's Explorer sidebar stopped showing the folder name and icon, instead making it a place for common tasks and file information and preview showing.

Windows Vista and above

Windows Operating Systems after Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, although still shipping Windows Desktop Update with it, no longer uses its original features. Windows Vista removed all settings of Active Desktop by introducing its new "Simple" Personalization options. Windows 7 completely removed the Quick Launch bar by introducing its new Superbar, and also removed the original Start Menu.

Main Features

  • Active Desktop - Enables the desktop to act like the Web, to display web pages on the desktop.
  • Quick Launch - The quick launch bar first appeared with the Desktop Update, providing a horizontal alternative to Microsoft Office 95/97/2000's vertical launch bar
  • Explorer improvements - The File Explorer now acts like a Web Page and has additional web content, and explorer also has larger toolbar buttons with labels like Internet Explorer's Toolbar.
  • Improved Start menu - Including a new 'Favorites' section, more options on the 'Find' menu and menu item drag and drop, edit and delete support