I have seen a problem quite like this. IE is not my default browser. I uncovered this due to an application that is hard coded top open IE. When I open IE nothing happens. When I enter a url it just sits there like it is not connected to the Internet. No errors, nothing. When I click on the gear everything is grayed out except File, Safety and View compatibility settings. I cannot get into settings. My first thought was corrupted files. I ran SFC /scannow and no errors are reported. Also did a DSIM restorehealth.
I am stumped at this point. I have been using 8.1 for some time and just noticed this.
I have turned off IE and brought it back to no avail using the Windows Features turn off/on option. If this was any other application I would delete and re-install but this is IE. Any attempt to download and install another version is blocked by MS indicating that it is already installed. Everything appears to be operating just fine except IE.