Friday, December 14, 2007

Internet Explorer problems - may not always be a virus

Normal problems not malware: How to fix the top 10 Internet Explorer issues

If you have trouble with Internet Explorer, just download and use Firefox. See the DOWNLOAD link on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Issues viewing Web pages


"Page cannot be displayed" errors


Red x instead of pictures


View, Source doesn't work

To address the issues above, you may need to try one, some, or all of the following three procedures.

Empty the cache

The first thing to do when Internet Explorer is misbehaving is empty your Internet Explorer cache. Often the cache is not corrupt or damaged – it is simply too large.


Click Tools, then Internet Options, and then click the Delete Files button.


A Delete Files window will appear. Select the option to Delete all offline content, and then click OK.


Click Settings and reduce the size of your cache to, say, 50 to 100 MB (more if you routinely download very large files).

This will invariably fix the dreaded red x, View, Source, and sometimes "Page cannot be displayed" errors.

Troubleshooting fix number 1—empty your IE cache.

Emptying the cache will not be sufficient to fix things if a hidden file in the cache folders, called index.dat, is corrupt. Our best alternative in such a situation is to delete the cache folders in their entirety, but this cannot be done from within Windows under normal circumstances.

Index.dat is a system file, and any attempt to delete it while Windows is running or while the user is logged on will be blocked. Therefore, we need to reboot into DOS mode or, when running later versions of Windows that support user accounts, we need to log in to Windows using a different Administrator account to that which is affected.

Note: The following procedure is for advanced users.

If you are running Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Millennium Edition (Me)


Click on Start, then Shut Down, and select the Restart the Computer in MS-DOS mode option. (If you are running Windows Me use a Windows 98 startup disc to access DOS mode.)

The steps required to create a startup disk are the same for Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Me.


Click on Start, point to Settings, and then click on Control Panel.


Open Add/Remove Programs, click on the Startup Disk tab, and then click Create Disk and follow the prompts. Make sure you have an empty floppy disk ready.

If you have difficulties when using Add/Remove Programs to create a startup disk (for example, if the Wizard prompts for your operating system installation disk and you cannot find it, or you only have a manufacturer provided restore disk or partition) go to Download a Windows98 boot disk executable file from that site, put an empty floppy disk in the correct disk drive, and then double click on the downloaded file to make the disk. I recommend Windows 98 SE Custom, which includes smartdrv.

Turn your PC off, and place the startup disk in the computer’s floppy drive. Turn on your PC, which should read the startup disk and load the DOS operating system instead of Windows.

Once the system has finished booting into DOS mode, run the following commands from the Windows directory, typically displayed in DOS as c:\windows\>.

deltree tempor~1

Just to be sure, let's also run:

deltree history

deltree cookies

I should explain what tempor~1 means. The version of DOS that is included on the Windows 98 startup disk does not support long file or folder names like "temporary internet files." We are restricted to 8 letters only. Therefore, any file or folder which has more than eight letters to its name must shortened, and appended with ~1 when use the Windows 98 version of DOS.


Tip: The smartdrv command is used to speed up disk operations in MS-DOS mode. Believe me, you don't want to run the deltree commands without loading smartdrv first. I have forgotten a few times, and can tell you that computers can hobble along for hours instead of minutes during the deltree process if smartdrv is not loaded first.

Reboot using CTRL+ ALT+ DELETE. If you are running Windows Me, remember to remove the startup disk from the floppy drive first.

If you are running Windows 2000 or Windows XP

We do things differently when working with operating systems that support User Accounts, such as Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Firstly, Windows 98 boot disks do not work if a hard drive is formatted as NTFS instead of FAT . Secondly, Windows 2000 and Windows XP use a more complicated directory structure than Windows 95 and Windows 98, making DOS more difficult to use successfully.

The path to the Internet Explorer cache directory will typically be something similar to:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\...

Thankfully, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users can log in using an Administrator account to delete the folders in question directly from within Windows Explorer. Note that an Administrator cannot delete his own Internet Explorer cache folders. He must log on using a different Administrator account.

Edit the HOST file

Note: The following procedure is for advanced users.

The HOSTS file is a hidden file used by some Internet related programs to control Web browsing by directly linking particular Web sites to pre-set IP addresses. The only problem is, if a Web page's IP address changes, the HOSTS file will not update itself to suit, causing "Page cannot be displayed" errors.

The HOSTS file can be viewed and edited using Notepad, but first we must temporarily show hidden files.

For Windows XP


Click Start, and then click Control Panel.


Click Appearance and Themes, and then click Folder Options.

For older systems


Double-click My Computer, click View, and then click Folder Options.


On the View tab, under Hidden files and folders, click Show hidden files and folders, and then clear the Hide protected operating system files check box.


Important: Files are hidden by Windows for a very good reason. It is not wise to experiment with these files. Unfortunately, to successfully complete the following steps we must turn this protection off temporarily. Please turn the protection back on when you have finished.

Find and edit your HOSTS file

The correct directory for a HOSTS file depends on what version of Windows you are running:

Windows XP = C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\Etc
Windows 2K = C:\Winnt\System32\Drivers\Etc
Win 98\ME = C:\Windows

Once you have found your HOSTS file, right-click on the HOSTS file, and then select Open. You will be asked to choose a program to use. Select Notepad, but make sure you that you do NOT turn on any option to always use the same program.

Examine the content of your HOSTS file, and compare it to the screenshot below. We do not need to worry about any line that begins with an # because is ignored by Windows. Also, the line " localhost" can be safely ignored, because it is a standard entry.

A HOSTS file can be used to control Web page to IP address associations

Anything else that appears in your HOSTS file without an # at the beginning, apart from the " localhost" line, should be viewed with suspicion when we are trying to diagnose the cause of "Page cannot be displayed" errors. The quickest way to test for HOSTS file involvement is to right click the HOSTS file, then select Rename. Add the letter X to the beginning or end of the file name and then ok your changes. By changing the name of the HOSTS file, we stop Internet Explorer from using it, and therefore resolve any issues caused by the file.

Repair Layered Service Provider problems

Sometimes Internet Explorer is unable to access the Internet if software known as Layered Service Provider (LSP) has been removed incorrectly from a computer. You might not know you have this software; it is sometimes installed by unrelated software such as file-sharing programs, without your knowledge. In such cases, you will need to run LSPfix or Winsockxpfix. As its name suggests, Winsockxpfix should only be used on machines running Windows XP. LSPfix can be used on all other consumer versions of Windows, but make sure that Winsock 2 has been installed on Windows 95 machines.


Tip: If you are using Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) there is a command that can be used instead of Winsockxpfix. It works by resetting the winsock catalogue. Click Start, then Run and type CMD in the dialogue box that appears, and then click OK. Type netsh winsock reset into the DOS window that appears.

Other issues when viewing Web pages

Creating a new cache and checking for HOSTS file involvement are, in my experience, the most likely way to successfully resolve page view issues in Internet Explorer. But it is not exhaustive. If you are still having issues, it would be worth reviewing the advice on my Web site. Some of the information is repetitious, but worth wading through—it addresses connection settings, third-party applications that may cause problems, issues related to Internet connection sharing, and a few other bits and pieces.

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