Beat bad browser behavior by troubleshooting IE 10

Internet Explorer 10 is popular but not trouble-free. Keep users happy by following these steps for troubleshooting IE performance and malware.

From research to goofing off and everything in between, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 may be the program used by the most people in your organization on any given day. Oddly, though, the Web browser is often the one piece of software that IT administrators know the least about. It works most of the time; what else is there to see and do? A lot, actually, especially given how IE 10 is so ingrained within the Windows operating sys...

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Some basic tricks can be very helpful, especially when you're using IE for things such as software testing and security assessments like I do. It's even more important when you have a network full of users who expect IE to be functional around the clock.

Although it's a very stable Web browser out of the box, IE 10 can have numerous problems. The most common ones I've seen involve speed, IE/Windows updates, software add-ons and malware infections. Here are some steps you can take to resolve just about any odd behavior with IE 10 troubleshooting.

1. If IE 10 is acting "flaky," it might be time to delete the browser's cache, cookies and related offline files. The following screenshot shows the various options and the default Internet Explorer settings. Delete Browsing History is accessible through Tools/Internet options and then the General tab and Delete option under Browsing history. Note: The Tools menu is accessed via the gear icon in the upper-right corner of IE.

Simply deleting your browsing history can fix numerous problems including remnants of prior malware infections. Just know that removing your browsing history (namely cookies, form data and passwords) can reset access to certain websites/applications and subsequently lock users out of enterprise systems, so be careful.

2. Perhaps a Windows user is experiencing a mechanical failure with a traditional hard disk drive or from overuse of a solid-state disk. Consider moving the current Temporary Internet Files location from C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows
\Temporary Internet Files to a different drive as shown in the following screenshot:

3. Continued odd behavior in IE 10 could be an indication of an active malware infection. It pays to download and run multiple anti-malware programs in addition to what you already have loaded. I've found Malwarebytes and Webroot are very good at discovering IE-borne infections that their enterprise-grade competition completely overlooks. Also, check which toolbars and extensions are installed/enabled via Tools/Manage add-ons as seen in the following screenshot:

Anything from junk toolbars to customized browser helper objects or ActiveX controls can cause weird instabilities with IE 10. Don't be afraid to disable anything questionable. Just know that this may break certain websites or application functionality, so remember what you did so you can reverse it if necessary.

4. If you've tried the steps above, and IE 10 is still running slowly, make sure that the app doesn't have dozens of tabs loaded at once. There's a direct correlation between the number of tabs loaded and memory usage and overall system performance.

5. The Internet Explorer Developer Toolbar (formerly an add-on that's now built into IE 10) provides additional means for troubleshooting browser and Web page problems as shown in the following screenshot:

Simply press F12 when IE is loaded, and you'll be able to do things such as view and manipulate session cookies, disable pop-up windows, change your user agent string and much more.

6. Security policies can also affect IE 10 functionality. For local security policy settings, run gpedit.msc and click through your Computer Configuration or User Configuration down to Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Internet Explorer as shown in the following screenshot:

In addition, be aware of Group Policies at the domain level. Have new policies recently been pushed out? Is there anything that can be changed or disabled? When in doubt, make your policy changes and then reboot or simply refresh the local policies by entering gpupdate at a command prompt.

7. Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and third-party patch management tools can push out fixes for IE that break certain functionality -- especially for Web applications that rely heavily on IE. As the following screenshot shows, IE 10 installs new versions automatically.

If these automatic updates cause problems for your organization, check your WSUS or third-party patch management settings to disable such updates for IE and Windows in general.

8. When all else fails with troubleshooting IE 10, you should fully reset its settings. As the following screenshot shows for the Advanced tab in Internet Options (accessible via Tools/Internet options), you can simply Restore advanced settings or Reset everything. Try restoring advanced settings first, since I have found that fixes many problems.

You may also find the Sysinternals Process Explorer tool helpful when dealing with IE questions. Of course, you and users may just consider another Web browser, such as Firefox, altogether!

This was first published in November 2013

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