Why won't internet explorer open, and why won't it detect my LAN connection when it occassionaly does?

I had been receiving the message "Microsoft Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and need to close" for some time, but ignored it. Now, however, IE it won't even open, although if I persist it eventually does and immediately displays the above message. But, unlike before, it does not detect a connection (and neither does MSN messenger), although I am using a LAN connection and my computer tells me that it is enabled (I am also sure that the problem isn't with the proxy settings).
This is happening on a Win2000 operating system which had just had a windows update very recently...I've used Spybot to remove all ad/spyware and Norton doesn't detect any viruses. Any help would be appreciated.
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Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
Although I wrote this for XP, it also applies to W2K...  You might want to go through the cklist on this page:

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Fatal_ExceptionSystems EngineerCommented:
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Windows 2000

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