Basic Internet Explorer troubleshooting

I did a little moonlighting this past weekend fixing Internet Explorer for somebody. It’s been several years since I’ve used that web browser regularly, but if someone pays me to fix IE, then I fix IE.

The problem was that after he paid someone else to fix his spyware problems, IE quit displaying SSL (secure) sites. So much for online banking and bill paying.

So here are some simple things to try if IE breaks and switching to an alternative browser like Opera or Mozilla isn’t an option.My guess is he got trigger happy with disabling stuff. IE was about as secure as it was going to get, but it was no longer useful as a web browser either. It was kind of like taking the tires off your car to keep it from getting in a wreck. The "Cannot display this page" page gave some troubleshooting information. It didn’t help. I searched Google for information. There were some suggestions of things to enable. It didn’t help.

So I figured I’d just download IE6 and see if running the installation program would give me an option to do a repair install. No dice. The installation program couldn’t access the Internet to phone home to Microsoft.

Two words: Personal firewall. I went looking. I found two. I uninstalled one. No dice. I uninstalled the second one and enabled Microsoft’s built-in firewall. It still couldn’t call home. This was weird.

As a last resort, I went into Tools, Internet Options, and cleared the browser cache and the history and everything else you could clear. And then I stepped through each tab, resetting the defaults everywhere I could.

In all honesty, I couldn’t see what difference there was between the defaults and the settings he had after I’d followed all those suggestions I found online. But after I reset the defaults, his browser was displaying SSL pages again.

All I can think of was that there may have been some hidden setting or settings in the Registry that got wiped out when I reset the defaults.

Then I went back and tightened things down a bit more–stuff like ActiveX controls and the like.

It’s always best to start with the simplest known configuration that works, then secure it one step at a time. That was definitely the case here.

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