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Periodicals > Link-Up Digital
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When Your Web Browser Stops Working
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Link-Up Digital

We all face computer problems, sometimes problems that make you want to pull out your hair.

Jerry Pournelle wrote a wonderful column called “Chaos Manor” in Byte magazine between June 1980 and August 1998 in which he described in detail the computer problems he wrestled with. It gave readers clues on how to solve problems they face themselves. Pournelle today has a web presence called Chaos Manor Musings (www.jerrypournelle.com). The following is an homage to all the hair Pournelle has pulled out of his head.

So, I'm computing happily when suddenly I can't surf. In Mozilla Firefox once I load my third or fourth page beyond the first, surfing slows to an unusable crawl. Pages take a minimum 15 seconds to load, and I frequently get the error message, “Mozilla Firefox (Not Responding).” Sometimes if I wait a minute the page finally loads. Sometimes it never does.

The same happens in the one other browser, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), that I also have installed on this system. It's an Acer Windows 7 laptop with 4 GB of memory and lots of free hard disk space that I use to connect to the Internet via WiFi. I keep this system protected with current, updated versions of the Internet security suite Norton 360, and the virtual private network Hotspot Shield. I have Windows Update set to update automatically. I have up-to-date versions of both Firefox and IE.

My other Internet activities aren't slowed down. I can retrieve and send email fine using Mozilla Thunderbird. File transfers using Dropbox go smoothly. Syncing my travel itinerary between my laptop and iPhone using Evernote works as quickly as before.

So I'm thinking it has to do with web browsing in general or these two browsers in particular. I try the following remembered or recommended steps, rebooting my system after each step.

I do a Clear All History (Ctrl-Shift-Del) in Firefox, to clear out browser and download history, form and search history, cookies, cache, active logins, offline website data, and site preferences. I do the same with IE. This doesn't help.

I disable extensions and plugins I deem unnecessary in both browsers. This doesn't help. Neither browser is overloaded with toolbars.

I clear out my DNS (Domain Name Server) cache by pulling up the Start menu, typing command prompt, typing ipconfig /flushdns, and typing exit. This doesn't help.

I run Spybot (www.safer-networking.org), a terrific donation-supported anti-spyware program, first downloading its latest updates. Then I run it again as an administrator, right-clicking on its icon and selecting “Run as administrator.” I hadn't run it in some months, and it catches a fair amount of adware, but this doesn't help.

I run Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (www.malwarebytes.org), an excellent donation-supported anti-virus program that's supposed to catch some malware that Norton and similar programs don't, first downloading its latest updates. It catches two registry settings it thinks shouldn't be there, but this doesn't help.

I update a WiFi driver. I go into Device Manager by pulling up Control Panel and selecting System and Security, System, and Device Manager. Nothing is flagged as problematic, but under Network Adapters I right-click on each of the three adapters or controllers listed there and choose “Update Driver Software.” I'm able to update Microsoft Virtual WiFi Miniport Adapter, but this doesn't help.

I do a Windows System Restore since this problem started about a week ago. I go to Control Panel, System and Security, Backup and Restore, select “Recover system settings on your computer,” select Open System Restore, select “Choose a different restore point,” and select a restore point from about ten days ago. This doesn't help.

I'm thinking that next I'll uninstall and reinstall my versions of Firefox and IE. But first I decide to take a look again at Google Chrome, which I haven't played with in about a year and is currently not installed on this system.

Chrome works like a charm. Problem solved.

I try Firefox and IE again. They have the same problem, slowing down to a crawl after I load the first few web pages. This doesn't happen for me now with Chrome.

Chrome is less resource heavy than either Firefox or IE, and faster. But I had been using Firefox without a problem as my main browser on this system for about two years. The only thing I remember doing during the week in which this problem surfaced is a Java update, which I did again after the System Restore.

Sometimes a computer fix, without knowing a cause, is enough.


Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at reidgoldsborough@gmail.com.


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