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ie7 works differently on two computers

rberke asked
Last Modified: 2013-12-08
Here is a short version of my question.  Painful details come at the end.

We have two computers running IE 7.0.5730.11.  On one computer a web application works, and on another computer the web application fails

How on earth can I figure out why there is a difference?  I have compared tools>internet options>advanced. The settings on both computers are identical.  They also both have all 4 security zones at the same level and they both have the same general settings.

Is there some methodical way I can zero in on the settings that are causing the problems?

Here are the painful details.

We have two computers running Windows xp pro with SP2. The computers both have Internet Explorer 7.0.5730.11.

We are accessing a federal complicated government web application that works slightly differently on CPU1 vs CPU2.  For ease of understanding my question, let's pretend it is a 1040 tax form.

On CPU1 things work properly:

Step 1. In Tab1 I go through web pages W1.1 to W1.30.  I enter all the name, address and financial tax information on a variety of web pages

Step 2. Web page W1.31 has 3 buttons    "Previous Page"  "save and exit"  "view preview".
I click "view preview"  and a new tab, Tab2, opens that shows page W2.1 with the tax form's image.

Step 3. Page W2.1 has a single button that says  "close preview and return".  

Step 4. I click on the button "close preview and return" and tab2 closes returning to tab1 which is still showing web page W1.31.
Step 5. page W1.31 is unchanged, its 3 buttons  ("Previous Page"  "save and exit"  "view preview") all work as I expect

On CPU2 things do not work properly
Cpu2 Steps 1 to 3 work normally and leave me in Tab2, which shows the standard preview page W2.1.

Cpu2 Step 4. on Tab2, web page W2.1 I click on the button "close preview and return" which closes Tab2 and returns to Tab1 page W1.31.

Cpu2 Step 5. Tab1 web page w.31 appears unchanged, but all 3 of its buttons give me an error message saying the session has timed out.  

I have discovered the following workaround.

Workaround Step 4.  On Tab2 web page W2.1 I do NOT click the "close preview and return".  Instead, I leave Tab2 open and manually manuever to Tab1 with web page W1.31.  

Workaround Step 5.  I can now use the "save and exit" button which closes Tab1.  I can then dismiss Tab2 by clicking its X box.

When I call the government help desk, they tell me it is a known problem and that the application DOES NOT work with IE7, but it does work with IE6.   IE7 compatibility will not occur in the near future.

To test their advice it tried the application on 6 of our computers with the following results.  I also retested with Tabbed Browsing turned off.  The same results occured.

Cpu1 IE7.0.5730.11 the application works
Cpu2 ie7.0.5730.11 the application fails
Cpu3 ie7.0.5730.13 the application works
Cpu4 ie7.0.5730.13 the application fails
Cpu5 ie6 application works
Cpu6 ie6 application works

So, the government's help desk is partly wrong, because the application DOES work on some configurations of IE7.  

Their advice is partly correct because IE6 seems to work fairly reliably.

But, I don't want to tell my folks to stop using IE7.

Is there some methodical way to identify the settings that are different between two IE7 computers, and then to zero in on the settings that are causing the problems?
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