Reports of IE 11 failing to start linked to icon font size

A remarkable series of coincidences leads me to believe that there’s a bug in the September-to-November cumulative updates for Win 7 and 8.1 that, under certain circumstances, prevent IE from starting. Microsoft hasn’t yet fixed the bug.

Open windows with billowy curtains

Throughout history, there have been a million reasons why Internet Explorer won’t start: You click on the icon in the taskbar, and nothing happens. Thanks to some stellar sleuthing by @PKCano on AskWoody, it now appears that there’s an identifiable cause for some of the failures. If you’ve recently installed any of the Win 7 or 8.1 Monthly Rollups from September onward and you can’t get IE to start, check your icon font size. Yes, you read that right.

Earlier this week I received an email from reader JB:

Have you heard of or seen an issue with Internet Explorer 11 crashing when the cumulative update for the Win 7 OS KB4048957 is installed? (not the IE patch mind you – the OS cumulative patch. Weird right?)

We are seeing this on some Windows 7 x64 machines. Uninstalling the patch appears to resolve this as an interim fix. (Obviously not a long term fix as the patch is cumulative — but helpful workaround to buy time for now.)

Initial indicators with a case we have open with Microsoft indicates if a registry key is removed this also fixes it (ironically, the removal also causes other issues so not a vector for the fix)

Ends up, we've seen that sort of misbehavior before. Back in October, @PKCano diagnosed the problem:

  • Internet Explorer 11 has to be set to show tabs in a separate row from the address bar. To put the tabs on a separate row, right-click the window title area, choose Show tabs on a separate row.
  • The icon font size for the tabs has to be sufficiently large — just how “large” depends on the screen resolution. You set the icon font size in the Control Panel’s Display applet.

If both of those conditions are met, and you install any of the Monthly Rollups for Windows 7 or 8.1 from September onward, it now appears that IE will not start. At least, that's the conjecture, and it's backed up by the odd experiences we've seen.

PKCano discovered that an icon font size of 11 on a 1,920 x 1,080 screen was no problem, but an icon font size of 14 would prevent IE from starting. There’s no notice, no indication why IE wouldn’t start. The screen just sits there and nothing happens.

In further experiments, installing the September Monthly Rollup prevented IE from starting. Removing the Monthly Rollup allowed IE to start. Installing the security-only update did not trigger the problem. But installing the IE Cumulative Update did trigger the problem.

Now it looks as if the bug appears in the November Monthly Rollup as well. Rollup bugs are cumulative, it would appear. 

Internet Explorer woes? Join us for covfefe and commiseration on the AskWoody Lounge.

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