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I am using Windows 8.1 and Internet Explorer 11. Each time I use File Explorer to view a .txt file the history of Internet Explorer shows that I viewed that file in pages visited on this PC.

  1. Is this a known feature?

  2. How can Internet Explorer know my file browsing history?

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Internet Explorer is tied directly to the Windows operating system. It is essentially an extension of normal File window. Many of the operations performed by Internet Explorer call directly into Windows services.

For example, the SSL/TLS implementation for Internet Explorer is performed in the LSASS (Local Security Authority Subsystem Service). So any time you visit a secure website all of the operations are actually performed by a Windows service.

Since Internet Explorer was initially tied into/based off of File Explorer it is able to see your file history. I believe this is an intended feature. Microsoft thought it would be cool to be able to browse your file system from your browser.

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    in earlier versions of Windows, the file explorer was in fact IE – schroeder May 18 '16 at 15:41
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    @Schroeder Technically, Internet Explorer shared routines with Windows Explorer. Windows Explorer is explorer.exe, and Internet Explorer is iexplore.exe. – wizzwizz4 May 18 '16 at 17:03
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    You mean Schannel – dave_thompson_085 May 18 '16 at 21:04
  • not related but... could one consider ie for these reasons more insecure then other browsers? – Zaibis May 19 '16 at 9:47
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    @Zaibis not per se. Any browser will compromise your machine once its "sandbox" is broken (just google for "[browser] remote code execution"). Its just that IE6 got famous because you could browse your computer from internet, and sometimes even opposite ;) – PTwr May 19 '16 at 11:24
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  1. Is this a known feature?

Yes.

  1. How IE can know my file browsing history?

As mentioned in the answer by RoraZ, Internet Explorer is (or at least, was originally designed as) largely an extension of the system file browser (explorer.exe), and they share many components and operations. Specifically, what you're seeing is that Internet Explorer is accessing and using the MRU (Most Recently Used) file list that explorer.exe is putting .txt files into. Because IE and explorer.exe are so closely related, this is not unexpected, and should apply to other file types that are either associated with Internet Explorer, or openable with Internet Explorer as well.

Basically, the Windows operating system stores MRU lists in the registry, and Internet Explorer is accessing that list and including it in your history, based on a filter of associated or openable file extensions.

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