I would like to lock my web browser so that it runs only if I specifically open it, with a keyboard, mouse, or both. This prevents obnoxious programs from opening it.

I already looked at "set default programs" and the option to uncheck my web browser to open URLs/http was disabled/grayed out.

I wasn't able to find any tool to auto-configure this, and when I searched for solutions I only got replies stating that none existed.

EDIT: I'm looking for a clean solution to this problem that doesn't involve:

  • Renaming programs so Windows can't find them
  • Any form of registry editing
  • Writing a custom program to control access to the web browser.

While I don't want to run the browser with elevated privileges, I do want a control similar to UAC, that would allow the program to be started only with unspoofable confirmation from the human user.

  • I'm not sure this is possible since anything that can be run on the command line can potentially be opened by other programs. Even if you set some kind of pop-up window to make sure you human, the best this will do is have pop up windows coming up whenever other programs try to open your browser. There may be some difference between the execution of programs that are opened through the GUI vs through the command line (for instance, environment variables may be set), but you will still probably have to do some coding. My advice: uninstall the obnoxious programs that are opening your browser. – hololeap Oct 3 '13 at 0:57
  • What you are asking for is fundamentally impossible (and I don't say that often) especially when you put so many constraints on it. Any program that is a program can be run in other ways than from the keyboard etc. Your system wouldn't work if it were otherwise. And blocking your browser will not make you one iota safer; exploits typically don't require your browser in order to invade. But if you hadn't put so many constraints on it, it certainly would be possible to rename the program to a non-executable extension, and use a batch file to change it to EXE & back before and after. – Debra Oct 3 '13 at 1:13

Given that Internet Explorer is mostly a collection of COM components and DLLs, and you can't decouple it from the Windows OS completely, you are unlikely to 100% eliminate every instance of it popping up without you explicitly launching it.

This being said, you could install a portable version of another browser, either Portable Firefox or Portable Chrome. The portable versions do not register themselves with the OS in any way (at least Portable Firefox does not), so it would not be possible for anything that you didn't explicitly set up to call those programs.

A workaround, if you can live with out Internet Explorer, could be to use Portable Firefox, and then configure Windows Internet Options (inetcpl.cpl) in such a manner that it cannot connect to the Internet. For example, configure a non-existent proxy, and disable any and all options in the Advanced tab. Firefox does not use the Windows Internet Options in any way. So, if IE is launched without your knowledge or authorization, it will then not be able to do anything.

  • “So, if IE is launched without your knowledge or authorization, it will then not be able to do anything.” What if it is invoked with a pathname as an argument –– essentially what happens if somebody (or some process) does start foo.html? – Scott Oct 3 '13 at 23:35
  • It would attempt to contact foo.html and fail, if you set IE to use a nonexistent proxy. IE would launch with the "This page cannot be displayed" message. – LawrenceC Oct 4 '13 at 0:46
  • Why would it attempt to contact http://foo.html/ if it’s given a URI scheme (i.e., “protocol?) of file? – Scott Oct 7 '13 at 22:20
  • That's indeed what it may do. I barely use IE, lol. To protect against local files doing things you need to adjust Internet Security zone settings. Also look into Local Security Policy. – LawrenceC Oct 8 '13 at 1:38

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