I have to confess something that I fear may make me seem a bit lame in the eyes of some readers. Ready? Here it is, admitted, albeit reluctantly: I just don't care about which browser I use. Yes, I know that Firefox has some nifty looking add-ons (the DNSSEC one has me a bit envious, I admit) and Chrome's got some neat stuff, but the truth is that I work with and, more importantly, test so many different systems that I prefer not to have to do too much configuring on my desktops -- I just want to fire 'em up and get some work done without a lot of fiddling.
Ah, but then IE8 arrived. You, know, IE 8 may just convince me to make a Firefox/Opera/Chrome/whatever browser install part of my "vanilla" setup routines, as I am beyond weary of starting up IE8 on a new system and having to answer a bunch of truly stupid questions before being able to use the blasted thing. So here are two ways that I've seen how to keep a freshly-installed system's IE8 from shoving its "first time run" wizard in my face.
First, there's a group policy. Prior to XP SP2, I think there were a sum total of about 8 group policy settings that had any effect at all on Internet Explorer. As of Windows 7, however, I think there might be about 10,835 -- okay, I'm exaggerating, it's probably only 8,741 -- so it took a bit of poking around to find this one. It's in Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Internet Explorer -- yes, it's right up in the root "Internet Explorer" folder, not one of the ten sub-folders in "Internet Explorer" -- and the setting's name is "Prevent performance of First Run Customize settings."
You've got to do more than just enable it, however; once you click "Enabled," you get a drop-down single-selection list box requiring you to either choose "Go directly to 'Welcome to IE' page," or "Go directly to home page." Choose the latter, and at this point IE8 becomes, happily, no more annoying than IE7 is on its first run.
By the way, if you'd like to just punch the value straight into the Registry, you can go to HKLM\ SOFTWARE\ Policies\ Microsoft and create a key "Internet Explorer" if it's not already in there, and another key named "Main" inside that. Then create a new REG_DWORD entry "DisableFirstRunCustomize" with value "1." You'll need to reboot to see the change take effect.
The other approach involves using an autounattend.xml answer file to create your Windows 7 image in the first place, a tool that you can read about back in Newsletter #60. While in Windows System Image Manager (which, you may recall, is the tool that builds autounattend.xml files), navigate over to amd64_ Microsoft-Windows- IE-InternetExplorer_8.0.7600.16385_neutral, or x86_ Microsoft-Windows- IE-InternetExplorer_8.0.7600.16385_neutral if you're running 32-bit Windows. Add that section to Pass 4 of your answer file. Within those settings, find the "DisableFirstRunWizard" setting. It takes "true" or false," but you'll want "true." If that setting's in your autounattend.xml, then your users will never see IE8's opening wizard.