Internet Explorer 7: Troubleshooting tips

Can't seem to find what's causing Internet Explorer 7 to misbehave? Troubleshoot the browser with these helpful tips.

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Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is light years ahead of its predecessors, but by no means does that proclamation mean that the browser is perfect. You are still going to encounter issues with IE from time to time. Our concise guide delivers some troubleshooting steps that will clear up the majority of issues you'll see with IE7.

Eliminate your Internet connection as the source of difficulties

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Given the stack of protocols and applications that have to come together in order to make Internet browsing and access function properly, it can be difficult to nail down exactly what your problem is. If you're experiencing problems browsing the Web, try the following steps:

  • Use an alternate browser. If you can connect to standard Web sites, then something within Internet Explorer is most likely the source of your problems.

  • Check for problems on particular ports. See if you can connect to a secure Web site. If you can use an SSL-enabled site, chances are port 443 works. Try a standard Web site again; if it doesn't work, port 80 is a problem. This information can be useful in tracking down a port-sharing conflict.

  • Try a different Internet connection. If you have a laptop, go to a wireless hotspot and try to connect. If you have access to a dial-up connection, try that temporarily. This can eliminate whether local network connections are causing the problem.

Adjust the size of your cache

IE7 sets the size of its cache as a percentage of your total available disk space. Since hard drives are approaching gargantuan sizes these days, it could be that IE is falling over on the enormity of its cache. Decrease the cache size by using the following steps:

  1. Open Internet Explorer.
  2. From the Tools menu, select Internet Options.
  3. On the General tab, in the Browsing History section, click the Settings button.
  4. Set the "Disk space to use" option to 250-350 MB.
  5. Click OK and restart Internet Explorer.

Diagnose IE7 conflicts with third-party software

By far, the most common problems with Internet Explorer you'll find -- lockups, inability to load pages, irritating delays in responding to clicks and other user feedback -- are a result of a clash between plug-ins and other third-party applications you've added to a default Internet Explorer installation. Of course, troubleshooting this type of problem becomes more of a challenge when you have more than one add-in installed. One particular program could cause an issue and so could the way one program interacts with another. The permutations can mount up quickly.

To diagnose whether add-ins are part of your problem, Internet Explorer 7 comes with a No Add-ons mode. You access it by going to Start, All Programs, Accessories, and System Tools. Select "Internet Explorer (No Add-Ons)" and see if the problems you've been encountering are still present, without all of the add-ins running. If indeed the problem is resolved without add-ins involved, then it's time to figure out which one is causing problems. Start IE7 the normal way, and then from the Tools menu, select Internet Options and then the Programs tab, and then click the Manage Add-ons button. Select an add-on from the list, and then click Disable. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Reset your configuration to eliminate IE settings gremlins

Consider this scenario: You've been troubleshooting a problem for a while, have adjusted setting after setting after setting and disabled add-ons right and left. Not only are you still experiencing your original issue, but you've introduced another annoyance that you can't solve. In previous versions of Internet Explorer, you'd really be sunk, but IE7 has a magic button that restores IE to its original, virginal state. That helps a lot if you've mucked about with a few configuration options without keeping careful records of what you changed and when.

You can run the Reset Internet Explorer Settings, or RIES, feature from within IE7. From the Tools menu, select Internet Options and on the Advanced tab, click the Reset Internet Explorer Settings button. After RIES has run its course, the user will notice that the settings for the browser's home pages, search providers, browsing history, form data, passwords, appearance settings, toolbars and ActiveX controls are reset to their "first-run" states. If you can't open Internet Explorer because of all the problems you were experiencing, choose the Internet Options applet within Control Panel, and you can access the RIES button from there.

About the author: Jonathan Hassell is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, N.C. Jonathan's books include RADIUS and Learning Windows Server 2003 for O'Reilly Media and Hardening Windows for Apress. His work is seen regularly in popular periodicals such as Windows IT Pro magazine, SecurityFocus, PC Pro and Microsoft's TechNet Magazine. He speaks around the world on topics including networking, security and Windows administration. He can be reached at jhassell@gmail.com.


This was first published in March 2007

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