WWW FAQs: Why can't I access Internet Options in Internet Explorer?

2005-09-08: Normally, Windows users can change their home page and other web browser settings by selecting "Internet Options..." from the "Tools" menu of Internet Explorer. This can also be accessed via the Windows Control Panel (Start -> Control Panel).

However, if you see the following error message when you try to select Internet Options:

This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer.
Then there are four possible causes:
  • 1. You are using a computer at work or school, and the system administrator (not you) has deliberately restricted access to this feature. If you want complete control of a computer, I would suggest using your own.
  • 2. You are using Spybot, a legitimate piece of useful software for removing spyware from your computer. Spybot's "Immunize" feature can deliberately lock the Internet Options control panel in order to keep malicious programs from making changes there. For more information about Spybot and its useful features, see my article why is my web browser broken?
  • 3. Your computer used to be in a limited environment like what I'm describing above, but it isn't any more. However, various unwanted restrictions are still in effect on your computer. The fix is simple and I describe it below.
  • 4. Your computer is now, or has previously been, infected by spyware, adware or other harmful software which has locked you out in an attempt to keep you from resetting your home page. If your home page has been set to something unpleasant or unreachable, this is almost certainly what happened. The fix is the same as for #2 above, but you first need to get rid of the malware infection.

When Your Administrator Has Locked Internet Options

In the first case, you'll need to consult your system administrator (the person in charge of the computers in your school or business) and ask them to help you accomplish what you need to do. This should be obvious but sometimes people are impatient and do dumb things that get them in trouble. I will not help you get expelled or fired.

Unblocking Internet Options In Spybot Search & Destroy

If Spybot is blocking Internet Options, you'll need to temporarily turn off Spybot's protection against abuse of the the "Internet Options" control panel. Just follow these steps:

1. Click on the "Start" menu

2. Click on "All Programs"

3. Click on the "Spybot - Search & Destroy" program group

4. Click on the "Spybot - Search & Destroy" program

5. When the main Spybot window appears, click the "Immunize" button in the toolbar at left

6. At the bottom of the window, you may see checkboxes named "lock IE start page setting against user changes" and "lock IE control panel against opening from within IE." If they are checked, uncheck them. This will enable you to use Internet Options.

If you don't see these options, then your version of Spybot Search & Destroy does not have this feature. See the next section.

Manually Unlocking Internet Options

In the third or fourth case, it's not hard to unlock Internet Options. But if your problems were caued by misbehaving spyware or other malware, you MUST FIRST remove the software that caused the problem! Otherwise, the problem WILL come back! For complete instructions, see Why is my web browser broken?

After you have removed the software that caused the problem, you can re-enable Internet Options using regedit. regedit is a program used to edit the "Windows Registry," a feature of Microsoft Windows that stores all of your settings and preferences.

Please follow these directions carefully. Incorrect changes to the registry can make your computer unusable.

Re-Enabling Internet Options With regedit

1. Start -> Run
2. Type regedit and click "OK"
3. Scroll to the top and double-click the HKEY_CURRENT_USER folder
to open it.
4. Under HKEY_CURRENT_USER, double-click Software.
5. Under Software, double-click Policies.
6. Under Policies, double-click Microsoft.
7. Under Microsoft, double-click Internet Explorer. If you don't see Internet Explorer, skip to step 9. 7. Under Internet Explorer, double-click Restrictions. If you don't see Restrictions, skip to step 9. 8. You should see a key called NoBrowserOptions, with the value 1. Hold down the right mouse button over NoBrowserOptions to display a menu. Choose "Delete" from that menu and confirm. If you don't see NoBrowserOptions, skip to step 9.
9. Repeat steps 1-8, but this time start with HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE instead of HKEY_CURRENT_USER.

You should now have no trouble accessing "Internet Options" from the "Tools" menu.

Important: if you can't find Restrictions or NoBrowserOptions in either HKEY_CURRENT_USER or HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, stop. Do not make random changes to your registry. You may be frustrated, but poking at your registry will only make things worse.

As always, consider using the Firefox web browser instead. Firefox is not affected by the most common spyware and malware programs.

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