The new version of Internet Explorer (IE 8.0) being previewed by Microsoft blocks access to the company's Windows Update service, company has confirmed.

Users who try to reach Windows Update with IE 8.0 beta 1 are instead greeted with a message stating, "To use this site, you must be running Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later."

IE 8.0 beta 1 was released last week after an unveiling at MIX08, the web developer conference Microsoft hosted in Las Vegas. The preliminary version runs on Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008.

Users were understandably confused when IE 8.0 refused to call up Windows Update. "After updating my IE 7.0 to IE 8.0 today, I tried to update my Windows Vista by visiting the Windows Update website, but then I was redirected to an error page," said a user identified as zkyboy on a Microsoft support newsgroup. "Why? IS IE 8.0 not the latest version browser?"

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To reach Windows Update, IE 8.0 beta 1 users must click on the 'Emulate IE 7.0' button, which switches the new browser into IE 7.0 mode. That requires a restart of IE 8.0, however.

"Windows Update is updating its site to support IE 8.0," said a Microsoft employee named Eric Law in a comment to an IE development team blog post last Thursday. "For now, click the Emulate IE 7.0 Button, restart all IE windows, and visit [Windows Update]. Sorry for the inconvenience."

Computerworld confirmed that the IE 7.0 emulation mode within IE 8.0 allowed access to Windows Update.

Elsewhere, users have reported problems accessing or rendering other sites with IE 8.0 beta 1, including Facebook, Google's Gmail and Microsoft's own Windows Live Mail.

Quirks and bugs are common in beta software, a fact acknowledged by some who left comments on the IE development blog. "Reading a lot of those crash 'victims' above, I hate to say it, but this is a beta," said a user labeled as IT_guy. "I would not be surprised to learn that they have a gazillion array of add-ons, toolbars and utilities blighting the browser. Those vendors are going to have to shape up and re-tool."

IE 8.0 beta 1 can be downloaded from Microsoft's site.