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Rectifying Internet Explorer browser problems in Windows

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Introduction:

Ever since I joined Experts Exchange (EE), I found myself gathering more points in the browser related questions, a good number of which could have been solved with either of the following steps. I became tired of repeating the same stuff over and over, hence decided to put all what I generally suggested in one place. Though I am writing this article using IE in its heading, most of the areas will be applicable to other browsers as well.

Internet Explorer (IE) is an integral part of the Windows Operating System (OS) and cannot be removed in its entirety. When you uninstall Internet Explorer from the “Add / Remove Programs” applet in Control Panel, you are actually downgrading to an earlier version. Suppose you have IE 8 and decide to uninstall it, you will end up with IE 7 when you reboot.

Most of the troubleshooting paths are written using Windows XP as the installed OS. Just in case you happen to use Windows Vista or Windows 7, the default path specified may not be the same as shown but can be reached with a little bit of fiddling around. I will begin with the basic and simple issues and then proceed to the more advanced ones.

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1. You are able to browse fine but IE takes a long time to launch. We can say 5-8 seconds is long.


Reason:

The most likely culprit is your browser cache (temporary files in the history folder). Either it is full, or it has some corrupt files or the size of the cache folder has been set to a very high value.

Solution:

Clear the browser cache. My Computer >> Control Panel >> Internet Options >> General tab >> click the Delete Button. Select everything except “Preserve Favorites website data” and click Delete.
You can lower the size of the browser history folder by clicking the “Settings” button under browsing history on the General tab. Personally, I set it to 50MB but a lot depends on your personal choice.
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2. Your home page is hi-jacked or you reach some other site than the one you were looking; even though you have entered the correct website address.


Reason:

You unknowingly gave permission to a website to change your home-page or Malware (virus, trojan, spyware, etc) activity.

Solution:

Control Panel >> Internet Options >> General Tab >> click the “Use Blank” button or enter the address of the website, you wish to set as your home page. Hit Apply >> Ok. Restart IE and test if the problem has disappeared.
Download a good malware scanner. Malware Bytes is one the best anti-malware scanners around. It is free and often recommended at EE. You can download it from http://www.malwarebytes.org/ Scan your PC for malware and eradicate it.
A hosts file with manipulated entries. A hosts file contains mappings of IP addresses to website names. The OS checks the Hosts file for website IP addresses before looking up with the DNS server. In windows, you can find the Hosts file located at C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc where C:\WINDOWS is your default OS installation folder. The file has no extensions but you can open the file with Notepad. It is a text file that has all lines commented out with a # symbol except for the last line which reads

127.0.0.1       localhost

In case you have not modified the file yourself, most likely it has been done by some unauthorized program (or malware as we call it). I have attached a fresh copy of Hosts file. Download and replace the file. EE does not allow files without extensions to be uploaded, so I have renamed it to txt. Remove the extension before you replace it.

hosts.txt

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3. IE behaves abnormally at times but the abnormal behavior is inconsistent. Freezing, garbled text and cut out images could be taken as examples here.


Reason:

A poorly programmed Add-on or Browser Helper Object (BHO) could be causing the issue.

Solution:

Run IE in "No Add ons" mode. Start Button >> All Programs >> Accessories >> System Tools >> Internet Explorer (No Add ons). This can also be established by entering iexplore -extoff  in the Run Dialog box and clicking ok.

If you can rule out the issue with the no addons mode then identify the one causing the issue. Uninstall / disable / remove all installed add ons in IE. Add ons can be managed by clicking IE >> Tools >> Manage Add ons  >> Enable or Disable Add ons. In the resulting “Manage Add ons” window select an Add on and then click the “Disable” radio button under the settings section.

Enable each one individually until you are able to locate the offending add on. You may have the following choices-

--Disable it completely
--Search and install the latest upgrade (and see if the issue has been ruled out)
--Look for some other alternative

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4. IE can reach a website by IP address but not with the website name (or url).


Reason:

The most probable reason is DNS lookup failure. Either your DNS server settings are incorrect or your ISP’s DNS servers are having problems.

Solution:

You can change the IP addresses of the DNS servers which your browser is set to lookup. If you are using an Ethernet Card to connect to your ISP, do the following to change your DNS servers to Google (8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4) or OpenDNS (208.67.222.222 or 208.67.220.220)

a) Control Panel >> Network Connections >> Local Area Connection x (where x is an integer). Locate the one that connects to your ISP and select it. It should display the name of your NIC under Device Name.

b) Right click for Properties. Under the General tab where it says – This connection uses the following items, select “Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)” and click the “Properties” button.

c) In the resulting Dialog Box labeled “Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties” under – Use the following DNS server addresses, Enter either Google or OpenDNS server IPs listed above and ok out everything. Changes are immediate and there is no need to reboot.

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5. IE can reach normal websites but cannot display Secure sites (website names beginning with https)


Reason:

Mis-configured IE settings or disabled Cryptographic services are the likely issues here.

Solution:

Reset Internet Explorer to manufacturer defaults. You will lose all customizations, browsing history and other individual settings done by you. My Computer >> Control Panel >> Internet Options >> Advanced tab >> click the Reset Button. Restart IE and test.
Windows + R key when pressed together will bring up the Run dialog box. Enter services.msc and click ok. This will open the “Services” window. Double click “Cryptographic Services” to open its properties window. Under the General tab, make sure Startup type is set to “Automatic” and service status is set to “started”. If the service is not started, this is the most possible cause of not being able to browse secure sites. Enable it to deal with the problem. Special thanks to senad for enlightening me with this one.
Still another place to check --- My Computer >> Control Panel >> Internet Options >> Advanced tab >> Scroll down to Security section >> make sure the options for “Use SSL 3.0” and “Use TLS 1.0” are selected with a check mark.
If you are using IE6, make sure it has the correct cipher strength installed. IE >> Help >> About IE. Under Cipher strength make sure it is 128 bits. If not, consider upgrading IE to a later version.
Check for a firewall policy too, if it is interfering with the display of secure sites. This Question refers to a Microsoft Firewall Client for ISA server blocking secure site communication.

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6. Other applications like online messengers, email clients, connecting to the internet work fine but IE is not able to pull up pages.


Reason:

Corrupt windows socket layer or corrupt IE browser files.

Solution:

In the windows Run dialog box, type cmd and hit ok. This will open up a windows command window. Enter netsh winsock reset and hit Enter. Close the command window and reboot windows.
My computer >> Control Panel >> Add / Remove Programs >> Select Internet Explorer >> Click Change / Remove. Follow the wizard to do a Repair install. If a repair install fails, select to uninstall / remove which will downgrade you to a previous version of IE. If you removing IE8, you will end up with IE7 and so on.
If still no luck, try re-registering dll files of IE. They are different for each version of IE. I have attached the related commands in a batch file relating to each version of IE. Download and run the batch file of whatever version that may be applicable to you.

IE6-dlls.bat.txt
IE7-dlls.bat.txt
IE8-dlls.bat.txt

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7. You are still not able to browse using IE. Other browsers and software are not working too. However, internet connectivity is there. Despite trying all the above steps, you are still not able to sort it out.


Reason:

Miscofigured proxy settings / Corrupt windows internet protocol / the presence of a Rootkit / corrupt user profile

Solution:

My Computer >> Control Panel >> Internet Options >> Connections tab >> LAN settings Button >> make sure there is no check mark on “Use a proxy server for your LAN”. If it is checked, uncheck and test if the issue is resolved.
This step will reset and rebuild all your network connections. You will have to reconfigure your networking afresh. You may also have to reconfigure or uninstall / reinstall any software firewalls. In the windows Run dialog box, type cmd and hit ok. This will open up a windows command window. Enter netsh interface ip reset log.txt and hit Enter. Close the command window and reboot windows.
Look up the following link for rookit removal. http://www.pchell.com/support/rootkitremovaltools.shtml You may also post a question in the spyware zone of Experts Exchange for further help. There have always been different opinions regarding dealing with and removing rootkits and/or malware. The ideal situation would be to first try and remove the infection. If you are successful, scan with multiple anti-malware software to remove the faintest glitch -- OR -- Backup, format and reinstall windows. The latter is the safest and the best approach but it depends how much time one would want to invest in doing such a thing.
Create a new user and test. My Computer >> Control Panel >> User Accounts >> Create a new user. Reboot. Login with the new user and see if you face the same issues.

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Resources used:

IE6 dlls -- http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=281679

IE7 dlls -- http://support.microsoft.com/kb/813444

IE8 dlls -- Special thanks to sameh_mhumaid who posted the solution at EE in this Question

Rootkit removal tools – Special thanks to BitsBytesandMore in this Question

Closing comments:

May it interest you this is one of the few articles I have written on Experts Exchange. You may find links to the others at My Member Profile Page. Scroll to the “Skills / Accomplishments Section” to view them all.

Was the read worth it? May I request you, the reader to kindly click the small blue "Yes" button at the end of this article, where it states "Was this article helpful?", if you really did find it helpful. A "No" is also welcome, so that at least I will know that you got through the stuff I wrote.

Please post comments, so that I may improve on it further. Your input will help me to improve and benefit all future readers.

Ravi.
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by:DanRollins
That's been on the list since day #1.   I also hope that EE will add that feature soon.
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