When it comes to browsing the web, the days of being restricted to Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) are long gone. Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari and Opera have all been challenging IE's market dominance. Even Google got in on the act last year when it released its own internet browser, Chrome.

But Microsoft was never going to take the competition lying down. Late last year, the firm unveiled a feature-complete beta version of IE 8.0.

At the end of January, Release Candidate 1 (RC1) was made available to all; you can read our review here. The upgraded web browser offers a number of new features, such as easy tab and session restoration and colour-coded tabs to make it easier to work out which ones are related. There's also a URL suggester that narrows down the list of previously visited sites that match characters you enter.

Importantly, Microsoft also claims to have improved the browser's security functions, including cross-site scripting to ensure web links you click on are legitimate.

But the feature that has caused the biggest stir of all is InPrivate Browsing - a function that was first unveiled with the beta 2 version of IE 8.0 last August.

Nicknamed ‘Porn Mode' by some web users, the function lets you browse the internet without leaving a trace of your activity. As soon as the session is closed, browser history, cookies, temporary files, form information, usernames and passwords are all removed, so no one can check what you've been up to.

Microsoft says this mode is great for organising surprises for loved ones or, more practically, checking email and online banking accounts from shared PCs.

The firm says the release candidate of IE 8.0 contains all the features that will be in the final version of the browser, but claims any bugs and issues will be patched before its proper launch.

Get to grips with Internet Explorer 8.0

Step 1: Visit tinyurl.com/cnw6wr and click ‘Download now'. On the next screen select your country of residence and operating system. Click the pop-up window and choose ‘Save file' to download Internet Explorer (IE) 8.0. The download will take a few minutes, depending on your connection speed.

Internet Explorer 8.0: Step 1

Step 2: Once the download is complete, double-click the icon on your desktop and select Run to start the installation. You'll need to check the licence terms and decide whether you wish to install Microsoft updates. Once you've dealt with these queries and restarted your machine, setup is complete.

Internet Explorer 8.0: Step 2