2013 11 18 Internet Explorer – A Website Suddenly Doesn’t Work!

This blog post is a bit long.  It would be best to print it off, then mark each step as you perform it.

Let me be clear, I like all the mainstream web browsers.  They each have their special features.  The best of those features are quickly poached and inserted into the competitors’ browsers, which is one reason I can say they are all the same – even while all are different.

Many websites are tweaked or even built for a specific browser, be that browser Internet Explorer(IE), Firefox or Safari.  This is the main reason you should become familiar with other, mainstream browsers.  One browser does not fit all people or web sites.  I commonly run two or three mainstream browsers on any particular computer.  Which browsers I use depend on what OS (operating system) runs that computer, as well as the  current state of those mainstream browsers, and the task-of-the-moment.

Browsers break.  Often this is due to user settings or browser and system updates.  Updates to add-ins and extensions are also high on the list of breakdown causes.  Below is a list of tasks you can perform yourself to get your “broken” website back in service.

Again to be clear, this blog refers specifically to IE v10 and Windows v7.  Other versions may do things differently.  You can google the details for other versions of IE.

1  Clear Cached Files

This is the first thing to try.   Browsers work by downloading files from websites before displaying those same files.  Those files are contained in your browser cache, otherwise known as Temporary Internet Files.  The problem here is that your browser will often refer to these cached files rather than downloading a fresh copy the next time you view that page.  Deleting your cached files forces IE to download fresh files from the website, which often “fixes” that website.

a) Select TOOLS\DELETE BROWSING HISTORY… from the menu bar, or use the key combination CTRL+SHIFT+DEL.

b) Click the checkbox of TEMPORARY INTERNET FILES AND WEBSITE FILES at a minimum.  Check all the boxes unless you know for a fact you need to keep a particular kind of data.

c) Click the DELETE button.  IE will then delete all the kinds of files you chose at that last step, then display a small pop-up notification near the bottom of your IE window.

2 Set Compatibility View  for the Broken Website

Progress threatens to leave us all behind.  This includes IE as Microsoft issues numerous updates and version upgrades.  Sometimes websites are built or tweaked for a specific version of Internet Explorer, or an update will break something required for the good operation of that site.  Web development can be expensive and time consuming; companies often have a hard time keeping up with newer versions of IE.

Microsoft came up with a handy feature called Compatibility View, which gives users the ability to make IE seem as though they run older versions of IE from the point of view of the website.  This is a simple and quick fix that often works.

a) Open Internet Explorer and navigate to the web page that suddenly doesn’t work.

b) Select TOOLS\COMPATIBILITY VIEW from the menu bar.

c) Reload the web page (F5).  Sometimes you’ll also have to clear your Temporary Internet Files after you toggle Compatibility View, then reload the web page.

3 Delete Java Temporary Files

Java is a very handy software package that allows software developers to write code that works regardless of browser or operating system.  That means you can reasonably expect the same results whether you use Internet Explorer, Chrome, Windows or Mac OS X.

Java also keeps a cache of files, separate and different from the cache kept by IE.  You can use the Java Control Panel to delete these files, which sometimes fixes broken web pages.

a) Click START\CONTROL PANEL\JAVA.

b) Click the SETTINGS button on the GENERAL tab under the Temporary Internet Files area.

c) Click the DELETE FILES… button.

d) Ensure CACHED APPLICATIONS AND APPLETS is selected, then click the OK button.

e) Click the CANCEL buttons until you get back to the Control Panel.

4 Reset Internet Explorer to Defaults

Sometime the problem is a relatively recent setting change within IE.  The best option is to reverse that setting or settings, then see if your web pages works again.  You can reset IE to defaults if you don’t know what settings have recently changed.  These defaults are the same settings IE came with when it was installed on your computer.

a) Select TOOLS\INTERNET OPTIONS from the menu bar in IE.

b) Select the ADVANCED tab, then click the RESET… button.

c) Decide if you want to include personal settings, enable the DELETE PERSONAL SETTINGS checkbox, then click the RESET button.

d) Click the CANCEL buttons until you’re back in Internet Explorer.

5 Rollback Recent Updates or Internet Explorer Version Upgrade

If none of the above helps, you can rollback most IE and add-in updates and even IE version upgrades.  For instance, I recently had to roll back from IE version 11 to version 10 because a critical feature of a necessary website no longer worked.  You may need the help of your I.T. department to perform this step; you might not have the technical skills or required system permissions.

Updates can usually be removed using the Programs & Features applet in the Control Panel.  You can rollback IE to the last version the same way.  I strongly recommend you involve your I.T. department at this stage rather than proceed on your own.

6 Fetch Website Requirements from that Site’s Webmaster

The requirements for some websites are more complex than others.  Perhaps that site requires a specific version of Java, or Adobe Flash, or Internet Explorer.  You can request such a list from the webmaster or I.T. support department of the broken site, if the list isn’t already publicly posted somewhere.

Print that list, then check the details of each item in turn.  Be sure that required programs are in fact installed and are the version mentioned in that list.

7 Other Causes

Early in this troubleshooting process you should try the broken website in a different browser on the same computer, or a different user profile, or even use a different computer to help determine if the problem is restricted to a specific computer or user profile.

The problem could be with the website itself.  Perhaps the webmaster or developers changed something and broke their own website.  It could be their website has been hacked or infected by malware.  Another problem might be a security setting change by your own I.T. department.  These are things to keep in mind as you work through your current problem.

Feel free to leave comments on your own troubleshooting suggestions and experiences.

Dennis Strain
Enclave Managed Networks
Box 365, Smithers, BC, Canada V0J 2N0

dstrain@bcenclave.ca
877-877-8793 toll free phone & fax

About Dennis Strain

Microsoft Office 365 Sales & Support Specialist - Managed Computer Services Provider
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