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Repairing Internet Explorer in Windows

written by: Percila Jackson•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 3/7/2009

Ever have your web browser suddenly stop working? If you're using Internet Explorer on a Windows computer, whether running XP or Vista, this guide will provide you with a quick reference of possible problem causes, as well as solutions.

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    Overview

    Browsing the web is one of the most common activities we do with our computers. When your browser malfunctions, it can be incredibly frustrating. If you’re using Internet Explorer on a Windows computer, Vista or XP, and are having trouble with your browser, here are some possible causes and solutions that might help you resolve the problem.

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    Possible Cause 1: Out-of-Date Software

    Whenever you’re having problems with your Windows operating system or any Microsoft product, the first thing you should do is check for available updates. You have two ways to accomplish this:

    If your computer is already up-to-date, or if installing the updates doesn’t repair the problem, then move on to the next possible cause.

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    Possible Cause 2: Malware or Virus

    Malicious software (often called malware) is highly prevalent on the web today. You should always have a comprehensive anti-virus program that scans for updates regularly to keep your computer safe. However, if you think your computer might be infected with some type of virus or malware, you should download and run Microsoft’s free Malicious Software Removal Tool.

    If malware isn’t the issue, there are also other methods for repairing Internet Explorer.

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    Possible Cause 3: Temporary Files

    Web pages are often stored on your computer’s hard drive in order to give you a faster browsing experience. However, these temporary files could become damaged, causing you to have problems with Internet Explorer.

    To resolve this, open Internet Explorer. Go to Tools, then choose Internet Options. Under Browsing History, click on Delete, which will open the Delete Browsing History dialog box.

    Locate the option for Temporary Internet Files, and click Delete Files. Note that this may take several minutes or longer, depending on how many temporary files were being stored on your computer. If the issue seems particularly severe, you may also choose to delete your cookies and browsing history.

    If the problem with Internet Explorer persists, then move on to step 4.

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    Possible Cause 4: Add-On or Toolbar

    In Internet Explorer, add-ons (such as ActiveX controls) and toolbars are intended to enhance your overall web browsing experience. However, the files could become damaged or corrupted, and that could be the source of the problem with Internet Explorer.

    To test for this, first try opening Internet Explorer with no add-ons or toolbars running. To do so, go to Start, then Run, and then type in iexplore.exe –extoff.

    If this has no effect on the issues you are experiencing with Internet Explorer, move on to step 5. However, if this seems to fix the problem, then clearly the problem is with one of your add-ons. To figure out which one and isolate it, try the following steps:

    1. Open Internet Explorer normally (that is, without the “-extoff” switch noted above).
    2. Go to Tools, then Manage Add-ons, then choose Enable or Disable Add-ons.
    3. The Manage Add-ons dialog box will appear. On the drop-down menu called Show, choose Add-ons that have been used by Internet Explorer.
    4. Click each add-on, then go to Settings, and choose Disable. Leave only one add-on enabled.
    5. Check to see if the problem in Internet Explorer still occurs. If it does, then you have identified the add-on that is the source of the issue. If not, repeat steps 2 through 4 for each add-on until you identify the one that seems to be causing Internet Explorer to have problems.
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    Possible Cause 5: New Software or Change to Your Computer

    If the problem with Internet Explorer began after you made a change to your computer or installed a new application, then using the System Restore utility would be the best way to resolve the issue. System Restore creates “restore points” on a daily basis, as well as every time a new application is installed, so your computer can easily be reverted back to a previous state, before the problem occurred.

    For full instructions on how to utilize the System Restore utility, follow the best practices provided by Microsoft.

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    Need More Help?

    In most cases, one of the above steps will likely solve whatever problems you are having with Internet Explorer. However, if the problem persists, you should contact Microsoft Support for advanced troubleshooting assistance.