IE and the Default Save Folder

If you’re one of the 14 people still using Internet Explorer, you might have noticed an annoying new “feature” that Microsoft introduced in IE 8 and continued in IE 9: when you save images from different tabs, IE always defaults to the user’s “Pictures” folder instead of the previously used folder.

For example, say you’re at an imageboard like Reddit, and you have opened a bunch of funny images you want to save in to different tabs. You right-click the first image and choose “Save Picture As…” and IE opens the save dialog box in the Pictures folder. You navigate to your c:\MyStuff\pictures\reddit\funny folder and save the image. You then go to the next tab, right-click that image and choose save… but instead of the previous location, IE has defaulted back to the “Pictures” folder. So you have to navigate to the your preferred location. And then repeat the process for all the other pictures in open tabs.

This happens because Microsoft used a method it calls “Loosely Coupled IE” (LCIE) to spawn new instances of IE every time you open a new tab. In other words, every time you open a new IE tab, Windows treats it as a completely new instance of IE. Which is why new tabs revert to default locations, but saving multiple images from the same tab don’t exhibit this behavior. And the reason Microsoft did this is for stability: if one of your open tabs crashes, only that particular instance of IE is killed, not the other instances of IE. So LCIE makes IE much more stable generally, but adds a huge annoyance for saving images.

Can you change this behavior? Yes, but you need to read this first: Trust me, it’s not the usual techno-babble yadda yadda yadda.

You can force IE to run as a single process, but this has two important ramifications: for one thing, all instances of IE will run as a single process, so if one tab crashes, all tabs will crash. Also, forcing IE to run as a single process disables Protected Mode in Windows Vista and Windows 7, because IE is running as a single process, instead of separate instances which Windows can run at different integrity levels.

To change this behavior, just open RegEdit and navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main

Look for a value called TabProcGrowth. If it exists, change it to one of the values below. If it doesn’t exist, create a new DWORD value and add it, then add the following value:

No value (empty) – This actually has no affect, and is the default setting. IE will spawn as many instances as your installed RAM will allow.

0 (zero) – This forces all instances of IE to run under the same process, thus retaining the save folder across all tabs. Are far as saving images goes, it’s like using IE 7 under Windows XP. Protected Mode is disabled under this setting.

1 – This uses one process for the browser session and another process for the actual IE window itself. This allows Protected Mode to work in Vista\7, but the Save As dialog will revert to the old behavior.

>1 – This forces IE to run in as many instances as you choose. If, for example, you set the value to 16, IE will spawn up to 16 different process, but then will start adding additional tabs to those existing 16 processes. This is kind of useless for the problem at hand, so I include it just for informative purposes.

Reboot your computer when done.

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