It's not always malware: How to fix the top 10 Internet... issues


It's not always malware: How to fix the top 10 Internet... issues
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It's not always malware: How to fix the top 10 Internet Explorer
Published: June 23, 2005
By Sandi Hardmeier
Malware, the perennial enemy of the Web
surfer, has received a lot of publicity and
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analysis over the past 12 months and rightly
• How to control which
so, but this attention has, in some ways,
proven to be a two-edged sword.
It is easy to forget that issues with Internet
browser is "Head Honcho"
on your PC
• LSPfix
Explorer are not always caused by malware,
especially when the support groups are full of
cries for help from owners of infected
• Winsockxpfix
• Sandi's site
machines. Sometimes, when malware fixes don't work, people are
at a loss as to what to do next. I have even seen examples where
people have been advised to reformat their machines unnecessarily,
• Internet Explorer support
but I have reached the thread too late to say "No, don't do that
Now for the good news…
The Internet Explorer of today is far more stable than it was back in 1999 when I first started
supporting users. Back then kernel32.dll and wininet.dll crashes were regularly reported in the
newsgroups – now such errors are only occasionally reported. Not only that, when non-malware
issues do occur they are often easy to fix and often are solved by the same few tried and true
It's beyond the scope of this article to cover all of the potential fixes for my "Top 10" Internet
Explorer issues, what you'll find here is what experience has taught me is most likely to succeed.
Note: Some of these procedures are for more advanced users.
Issues: “page cannot be displayed” errors, Red ‘x’ instead of
pictures, ‘View Source’ doesn’t work
Empty the cache
The first thing to do when Internet Explorer is misbehaving is empty your Internet Explorer cache.
Often the cache is not corrupt or damaged – it is simply too large.
Click Tools, then Internet Options, and then click the Delete Files button.
A Delete Files window will appear. Select the option to Delete all offline content, and
then click OK.
Click Settings and reduce the size of your cache to, say, 50 to 100 MB (more if you
routinely download very large files).
This will invariably fix the dreaded red x, View, Source, and sometimes "Page cannot be displayed"
Troubleshooting fix number 1 empty your IE cache.
Emptying the cache will not be sufficient to fix things if a hidden file in the cache folders, called
index.dat, is corrupt. Our best alternative in such a situation is to delete the cache folders in their
entirety, but this cannot be done from within Windows under normal circumstances.
Index.dat is a system file, and any attempt to delete it while Windows is running or while the user is
logged on will be blocked. Therefore, we need to reboot into DOS mode or, when running later
versions of Windows that support user accounts, we need to log in to Windows using a different
Administrator account to that which is affected.
Note: The following procedure is for advanced users.
If you are running Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Millennium Edition (Me)
Click on Start, then Shut Down, and select the Restart the Computer in MS-DOS mode
option. (If you are running Windows Me use a Windows 98 startup disc to access DOS
The steps required to create a startup disk are the same for Windows 95, Windows 98, and
Windows Me.
Click on Start, point to Settings, and then click on Control Panel.
Open Add/Remove Programs, click on the Startup Disk tab, and then click Create Disk
and follow the prompts. Make sure you have an empty floppy disk ready.
If you have difficulties when using Add/Remove Programs to create a startup disk (for example, if
the Wizard prompts for your operating system installation disk and you cannot find it, or you only
have a manufacturer provided restore disk or partition) go to
Download a Windows98 boot disk executable file from that site, put an empty floppy disk in the
correct disk drive, and then double click on the downloaded file to make the disk. I recommend
Windows 98 SE Custom, which includes smartdrv.
Turn your PC off, and place the startup disk in the computer’s floppy drive. Turn on your PC, which
should read the startup disk and load the DOS operating system instead of Windows.
Once the system has finished booting into DOS mode, run the following commands from the
Windows directory, typically displayed in DOS as c:\windows\>.
deltree tempor~1
Just to be sure, let's also run:
deltree history
deltree cookies
I should explain what tempor~1 means. The version of DOS that is included on the Windows 98
startup disk does not support long file or folder names like "temporary internet files." We are
restricted to 8 letters only. Therefore, any file or folder which has more than eight letters to its
name must shortened, and appended with ~1 when use the Windows 98 version of DOS.
Tip: The smartdrv command is used to speed up disk operations in MS-DOS mode. Believe
me, you don't want to run the deltree commands without loading smartdrv first. I have
forgotten a few times, and can tell you that computers can hobble along for hours instead of
minutes during the deltree process if smartdrv is not loaded first.
Reboot usg CTRL+ ALT+ DELETE. If you are running Windows Me, remember to remove the startup
disk from the floppy drive first.
If you are running Windows 2000 or Windows XP
We do things differently when working with operating systems that support User Accounts, such as
Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Firstly, Windows 98 boot disks do not work if a hard drive is
formatted as NTFS instead of FAT . Secondly, Windows 2000 and Windows XP use a more
complicated directory structure than Windows 95 and Windows 98, making DOS more difficult to
use successfully.
The path to the Internet Explorer cache directory will typically be something similar to:
C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\...
Thankfully, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users can log in using an Administrator account to
delete the folders in question directly from within Windows Explorer. Note that an Administrator
cannot delete his own Internet Explorer cache folders. He must log on using a different
Administrator account.
Edit the HOST file
Note: The following procedure is for advanced users.
The HOSTS file is a hidden file used by some Internet related programs to control Web browsing by
directly linking particular Web sites to pre-set IP addresses. The only problem is, if a Web page's IP
address changes, the HOSTS file will not update itself to suit, causing "Page cannot be displayed"
The HOSTS file can be viewed and edited using Notepad, but first we must temporarily show hidden
For Windows XP
Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
Click Appearance and Themes, and then click Folder Options.
For older systems
Double-click My Computer, click View, and then click Folder Options.
On the View tab, under Hidden files and folders, click Show hidden files and folders,
and then clear the Hide protected operating system files check box.
Important: Files are hidden by Windows for a very good reason. It is not wise to experiment with
these files. Unfortunately, to successfully complete the following steps we must turn this protection
off temporarily. Please turn the protection back on when you have finished.
Find and edit your HOSTS file
The correct directory for a HOSTS file depends on what version of Windows you are running:
Windows XP = C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\Etc
Windows 2K = C:\Winnt\System32\Drivers\Etc
Win 98\ME = C:\Windows
Once you have found your HOSTS file, right-click on the HOSTS file, and then select Open. You
will be asked to choose a program to use. Select Notepad, but make sure you that you do NOT
turn on any option to always use the same program.
Examine the content of your HOSTS file, and compare it to the screenshot below. We do not need to
worry about any line that begins with an # because is ignored by Windows. Also, the line "
localhost" can be safely ignored, because it is a standard entry.
A HOSTS file can be used to control Web page to IP address associations
Anything else that appears in your HOSTS file without an # at the beginning, apart from the
" localhost" line, should be viewed with suspicion when we are trying to diagnose the
cause of "Page cannot be displayed" errors. The quickest way to test for HOSTS file involvement is
to right click the HOSTS file, then select Rename. Add the letter X to the beginning or end of the
file name and then ok your changes. By changing the name of the HOSTS file, we stop Internet
Explorer from using it, and therefore resolve any issues caused by the file.
Repair Layered Service Provider problems
Sometimes Internet Explorer is unable to access the Internet if software known as Layered Service
Provider (LSP) has been removed incorrectly from a computer. You might not know you have this
software; it is sometimes installed by unrelated software such as file-sharing programs, without
your knowledge. In such cases, you will need to run LSPfix or Winsockxpfix. As its name suggests,
Winsockxpfix should only be used on machines running Windows XP. LSPfix can be used on all other
consumer versions of Windows, but make sure that Winsock 2 has been installed on Windows 95
Tip: If you are using Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) there is a command that can be used
instead of Winsockxpfix. It works by resetting the winsock catalogue. Click Start, then Run
and type CMD in the dialogue box that appears, and then click OK. Type netsh winsock reset into
the DOS window that appears.
Other issues when viewing Web pages
Creating a new cache and checking for HOSTS file involvement are, in my experience, the most
likely way to successfully resolve page view issues in Internet Explorer. But it is not exhaustive. If
you are still having issues, it would be worth reviewing the advice on my Web site. Some of the
information is repetitious, but worth wading through
it addresses connection settings, third-party
applications that may cause problems, issues related to Internet connection sharing, and a few
other bits and pieces.
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Issues related to default browser settings
Error messages when attempting to send a page or link by e-mail
First, reset your default e-mail client from within Internet Explorer. To do this go to Tools,
then Internet Options, then Programs, then select your e-mail program of choice.
The easiest way to set your default e-mail client is from within Internet Explorer
Sometimes your e-mail program will not appear in the drop down list shown above. When this
happens, we need to re-register the program in question.
To re-register your e-mail program:
Click Start, then click Run, and then type the appropriate command based on the following
e-mail programs:
Outlook Express:
"C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\Msimn.Exe" /reg
"c:\program files\microsoft office\office\outlook.exe" /checkclient
Make sure the path to msimn.exe or outlook.exe is correct for your machine. Type the command
line exactly as it appears, including quote marks and spaces.
If using a non-Microsoft e-mail program:
A program must be Internet Explorer aware to automatically list itself as a default program option.
If the program does not appear, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you can right-click
the executable file for the program, and see if Register appears as an option, (which should cause
the program to be listed on the drop box on the Program Tab)
Otherwise, there's a manual method, but it involves editing the registry and adding the program
HKEY LOCAL MACHINE\Software\Clients\mail
-orHKEY LOCAL MACHINE\Software\Clients\news
You will need to contact your program's vendor for the appropriate syntax.
Hyperlinks not working
Hyperlinks will not work if a computer system does not know which Web browser is set as the
default, which happens if the settings that control this choice are damaged or incorrect. The easiest
way to fix the problem is to allow your preferred Web browser to rewrite the appropriate settings by
resetting your default browser. Rather than walk through the steps required to achieve this in this
column, I refer you to my previous column about how to set up your browser as the default.
"Open in new Window" doesn't work
Sometimes resetting our default browser is not enough to get hyperlinks to work again,
especially if they trigger a new window. Open in new window is dependent upon several system
files, therefore you should ensure they are correctly registered.
Click on Start, then Run, then run the following commands. After you run each command, a small
window should appear stating that the command was successful.
regsvr32 Shdocvw.dll (if that doesn't work, try shdoc401.dll)
regsvr32 Oleaut32.dll
regsvr32 Actxprxy.dll
regsvr32 Mshtml.dll
regsvr32 Urlmon.dll
Some programs that control pop-up windows and advertisements can stop hyperlinks from working.
Also, some third-party add-ins are known to cause a problem and must be uninstalled when
misbehaving in this way. Disable all third-party Internet related programs (not your firewall) and
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Miscellaneous issues
Internet Explorer freezes, shuts down without warning, or the computer reboots.
This problem is often caused by out-of-date video drivers. Go to the Web site run by the
manufacturer of your video card and download, then install, the latest (non-beta) drivers for your
video card.
Alternatively, you can try the following:
Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
Click Display (in classic view of Windows XP), click the Settings tab, and then click
Click the Performance or Troubleshooting tab (depending on your operating system), and
then reduce hardware acceleration a notch at a time until your system stabilizes.
Internet Explorer opens off screen, or tiny, or minimized, or the window will not
If your taskbar is set to Autohide, turn the setting off and then maximize the problem window.
While the window is maximized, increase the height of your taskbar from one row to two. The
maximized window will automatically resize itself to fit into the smaller area available with a taller
taskbar. Then, return the taskbar to its normal single row and allow the maximized window to resize
once more. This will make Windows re-calculate window size and boundaries, overwriting registry
keys that may be damaged.
If the affected window is partially off screen, so that the Minimize, Maximize, Restore, and Close
buttons are hidden, you can access the same options by clicking on the Internet Explorer icon on
the far left edge of the Internet Explorer title bar, or by right-clicking on the Internet Explorer
button on the taskbar.
Internet Explorer's window sizing options can be accessed in several ways
If resizing your Taskbar does not work, run Regedit and remove the following registry key values
which are most likely corrupt. Do not delete the entire key, just the last word which will appear in
the right hand pane.
HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\window_placement
HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Desktop\OldWorkAreas\OldWorkAreaRects
Then reboot.
The computer keeps disconnecting from the Internet
This one can raise suspicions of malware. But, before you reformat your computer, do the
In Internet Explorer, on the Tools menu, click Internet Options, and then click the
Connections tab.
Under Dial-up or Virtual Private Network settings, click the Settings button.
Under Dial-up settings, click the Advanced button and make sure that Disconnect when
connection may no longer be required check box is cleared, and that the Disconnect if
idle check box is cleared as well.
In Outlook Express, on the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Connection tab.
Turn off the option to Hang up after sending and receiving, and then close the Options
On the Tools menu, click Accounts, and then click the Mail tab.
Make sure that each connection is set to use Any Available. If not, highlight the account
then click on Properties.
Click the Connection tab and ensure that the option "Always connect to this account
using" is turned off.
"A runtime error has occurred. Do you wish to debug?"
This is another symptom that tends to raise suspicions of malware.
In Internet Explorer, on the Tools menu, click Internet Options, and then click the
Advanced tab.
Make sure that Disable Script Debugging (Internet Explorer) and Disable Script
Debugging (Other) are both enabled.
Make sure that Disable a Notification about ever script error is disabled.
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Further assistance
The procedures I have listed above should resolve most occurrences of the issues being discussed.
If this is not the case, I recommend some further research and assistance. You are welcome to
browse my Web site for further hints and fixes. I also recommend the Internet Explorer newsgroups
which are dedicated to helping users make the most of Internet Explorer.
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