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Administering Internet Explorer : Troubleshooting Internet Explorer Issues

6/19/2011 4:16:23 PM
Occasionally, IE doesn't work as you'd expect. There are several steps you can take to check and troubleshoot different issues:
  • Check network and proxy settings.

  • Troubleshoot plug-ins and add-ons.

  • Restore IE original settings.

  • Disable Add-on Crash Detection.

  • Enable Compatibility View.

1. Check Network and Proxy Settings

If a user is unable to reach any Internet sites, you should start with the basics. Make sure that the client is able to reach other network resources. However, if you can ping other network resources but can't access Internet resources with IE, you should check the proxy settings.

You can access these settings from Tools => Internet Options. Select the Connections tab, and click the LAN Settings button. If a proxy server is used in your network, ensure that the correct address and port are configured. Figure 1 shows these settings.

Figure 1. Configuring proxy server settings

If you have different proxy servers for different protocols, you can click the Advanced button and configure different IP addresses for the different proxy servers. However, it's common for a single proxy server to handle all the protocols.

2. Troubleshoot Plug-ins and Add-ons

One of the strengths of IE is that it can be extended with plug-ins and add-ons. These can add significant capabilities to IE. However, unreliable plug-ins and add-ons can make IE unstable.

IE supports four types of add-ons:

  • Toolbars and extensions

  • Search providers

  • Accelerators

  • InPrivate Filtering

If you suspect that an add-on is causing instability problems with IE, you can launch IE without any add-ons. If it's stable, you'll have verified that the problem is caused by the add-on. Now, the challenge is determining which add-on is causing the problem. You can do this with the Manage Add-ons screen.

Figure 2 shows the Manage Add-ons screen with Toolbars And Extensions selected. You can select any of the add-ons and select Disable.

Figure 2. Managing add-ons

This display shows another valuable piece of information. On the far right is the Load Time column. If an add-on is causing problems, it will likely have a long load time. Unfortunately, only the Toolbars And Extensions screen includes the Load Time column.

Exercise: Disable and Manage Add-ons

  1. You can launch an instance of IE in No Add-ons mode. Click Start => All Programs => Accessories => System Tools => Internet Explorer (No Add-ons). This will launch a page with text indicating that Internet Explorer is running without add-ons.

  2. Launch a regular instance of IE.

  3. Select Tools => Manage Add-ons. By default, the Toolbars And Extensions add-ons are shown. You can select any of the add-ons and select Disable.

  4. Select Search Providers. This screen shows the search providers that have been added to IE. You can choose any of these and select Remove to remove it completely. You can select one to be the default provider.

  5. Select Accelerators. You can view all of the accelerators that have been added to IE, disable them, or remove them. If any of the categories includes more than one accelerator, you can also set one as the default.

3. Restore IE Original Settings

Occasionally, the settings for IE can become changed so much that it is no longer reliable or secure. This can be due either to a user experimenting with IE or to modifications from malware.

You can completely reset all of the IE settings and add-ons. This is a drastic step, but if IE has become unreliable, it can be very useful. 

Exercise: Viewing IE Advanced Settings and Resetting All IE Settings

  1. Start Internet Explorer.

  2. Select Tools => Internet Options.

  3. Click the Advanced tab.

  4. Scroll through the settings. The last category of settings is Security. Notice that some settings are marked with an asterisk (*). If you change these settings, they will take effect only after you restart IE.

  5. If you want to restore all of the Advanced settings to what they were when IE was first installed, click Restore Advanced Settings.

  6. Click the Reset button. Your display will look similar to the following graphic.

    Notice that you can use this to reset all IE settings. If you select the Delete Personal Settings check box, IE will be returned exactly to how it was when it was first installed. This is a drastic step but can be used if IE is no longer running reliably.

  7. Click Cancel.

4. Disable Add-on Crash Detection

By default, IE will detect problematic add-ons and automatically disable them. However, there may be times when you need the add-on to remain functional. This could be for testing or until a solution is discovered.

If you want to ensure that the add-on is not disabled, you can modify the following Group Policy setting: Administrative Templates => Windows Components => Internet Explorer => Turn Off Crash Detection. This setting is available in both the User Configuration and the Computer Configuration nodes.

5. Enable Compatibility View

The Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) has evolved quite a bit over the lifetime of the Internet. Although there have been several standards published, not all websites and even browsers consistently follow the same standards.

If IE detects that a web page is not being displayed correctly, it will enable the Compatibility View button on the Address bar. Figure 3 shows where the Compatibility View button appears in IE.

Figure 3. Compatibility View button in IE


The Compatibility View button is not always available. It appears only when IE detects that the display may be improved using the Compatibility View. For example, if a metatag within the page indicates that the page is ready for IE 8, the Compatibility View button doesn't appear.

When you click the button, IE will display using compatibility settings. It will also add the site to the Compatibility View Settings list. You can add and remove sites from this list by manipulating the Compatibility View Settings. With IE started, click Tools => Compatibility View Settings or Page => Compatibility View Settings.

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