The Mystery Of The 5 Minute Browser

Heed the sage words of Brian!I had the weirdest problem recently. Five minutes after booting up my office laptop, in the midst of checking the news online, my browser stopped working. That isn’t to say I couldn’t use the buttons or select items from the menus. Functionally speaking, the browser application was fine. The problem is that pages stopped loading. All of them.

Expecting that it was a network outage or a corporate firewall problem, checked the usual things. I verified that my network cable hadn’t broken or been disconnected. I tried unplugging it and plugging it back in. Still dead. I fired up Innernut Exploder (I use Firefox by default. [Funny Side Note: In getting this link, I've noticed Firefox's website has determined I'm Italian. I have no idea why, and there's no convincing it that I'm not. I wonder if it's flirting with me.]) Still nothing. I checked with some other people in the office. Their connections were fine, and they hadn’t experienced any outages whatsoever. Damn, it’s me.

I often listen to radio programming streamed over the internet while I’m in the office. Every now and then the little embedded applications used by these stations will cause me trouble that can only be resolved by rebooting. So I reboot. And I’m back online, happily getting my news fix. For about five minutes. Then I’m dead in the water again. About this time, I get an email. What the heck is going on? My browsers are dead by my email application is humming right along like everything’s fine. And I can ping Yahoo from the command window.

So I reboot again. This time, I don’t expect this to fix the problem, I just want to establish that this problem is a repeatable and demonstrable, so I don’t look like an idiot when I speak with the help desk. Like clockwork, after about 5 minutes, I’m dead in the water again. So off I go on a help desk adventure. I’ll spare you the details. All you really need to know is that this bug owned the help desk. If you seriously suggest wiping and re-imaging a PC, you are conceding defeat. You are owned. I have to give them credit though, before admitting defeat, they spent hours chasing this problem, trying increasingly more obscure solutions. I’m probably not worth the effort they put into it, if you run the metrics.

I had no intention of reinstalling and reconfiguring this machine. I’ve spent too much time getting it configured just right. I took the problem home, and scoured the internet for a solution. (From another PC, of course.) And I found a lot of possible fixes, which I sent to my Crackberry for use the following day at work.

Here are the valid candidate solutions I found. I’m listing them all here, because what worked for me may not be what works for you. I know you won’t be surprised to hear that there are a variety of things that can cause this problem.

Fix Candidate #1 – IP Renewal:
This is probably the easiest possible fix and least likely to cause trouble. For this reason it was the first I tried. (I’m kind of surprised that neither Help Desk or I thought of this.)

  1. Open a command window (Start -> Run -> “cmd”)
  2. Type ipconfig /release and enter.
  3. Type ipconfig /renew and enter.
  4. Close the window and try the browser. If this was gonna work, it would be now.

Fix Candidate #2 – Flushing DNS Cache:
This is similar to the first, and if the websites and newsgroups I read are any indication, the odds favor it as the winning solution. (There are some additional steps that involve updating registry values to set minimums and maximums for DNS cache, but I’m leaving them out. They’re non-essential, and I don’t want to encourage people to go mucking around in their registry. If you want to know, let me know.)

  1. Open a command window (Start -> Run -> “cmd”)
  2. Type ipconfig /flushdns and enter.
  3. You should get a message indicating success.
  4. Close the window and try the browser. If this was gonna work, it would be now.

Fix Candidate #3 – Hijack This:
This fix is simple as downloading HijackThis (official website on Trend Micro), running it, and deleting the following items, if they appear. If they don’t, this isn’t the fix for you. Because I’m all about saving time, do a search for “win32exe.exe” on your machine before downloading or installing anything.

  • O4 – HKLM\..\Run: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKLM\..\RunServices: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKCU\..\Run: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKCU\..\RunServices: [winbin32] win32exe.exe

After that you need to reboot and delete the file file named “win32exe.exe”.

Fix Candidate #4 – The Repair Install:
I save this one for last for a couple of reasons. To begin with, it sounds kind of stupid. Also, it happens to be the fix that got me back on track. It’s dumb and it works. As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently began the slow, painful process of migrating from one mail client to another in the office. As a part of that transition (which, I’m annoyed to say, is ongoing) I had to install AT&T network client software. And wouldn’t you know it, the install blue-screened. That’s all the background you need for this fix.

  1. Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Add or Remove Programs
  2. Select AT&T Network Client from the list and click the “Change” button.
  3. Select the repair install option. (Or uninstall, if you no longer need the software.)
  4. Follow instructions.
  5. Reboot optional. You may find that your browser works immediately.

If you don’t have the AT&T Network Client installed, and are having this problem, have no fear. The word is that these steps can also be used on systems with Symantec AntiVirus or Microsoft Media Connect. Generally speaking, if you have the problem shorty after installing new software, consider re-installing it, or removing it.

I hope in posting this, I’ll save somebody the pain of formatting and reinstalling their PC in frustration. If you do use this information to fix your machine, let me know! I’ll consider the warm-fuzzy payment for services rendered. :)

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14 Comments

  1. July 26, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    I’ve actually had to do the Repair thing with Microsoft Office here at work for unknown reasons. No change in installations or anything. It would work one day, but then act like it had ADD the next. Once the Help -> Detect and Repair option was run, everything worked fine again. *shrug*

  2. Brian said,

    July 26, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    I’ll keep that in mind abbydonkrafts,

    It sounds like the Microsoft Office version of the reboot. :)

    The Microsoft mantra was, “When all else fails, reboot!” I wonder if it’s time to re-designate it “When all else fails, repair install!” Come to think it it, there’s no reason we can’t have two mantras…

  3. Emon said,

    July 26, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Very, very cool tips! I would have never thought of #1 (not that I would’ve ever anything on a PC).

  4. July 26, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Hey Brian..

    Need your professional opionion. Answer here and I’ll check it later. A gentleman I know (possible future business connections) is very much a cigar officianado. I want to get him some cigars that will impress him without overtly as though I’m completely kissing his ass–which of course, is exactly what I’m doing. Something domestic–that I won’t have to jump through hoops to get and nothing outrageously expensive. He’ll get the better stuff once he gainfully employs me.

    Am I just S-O-L or is there a tobacco’d beast fitting my description out there??? One that he’ll know I’ve done my ass kissing homework.

    Thanks awfully!
    Laurie

  5. July 26, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    The Microsoft mantra was, “When all else fails, reboot!” I wonder if it’s time to re-designate it “When all else fails, repair install!”

    I think it’s the new mantra. The first one is for Windows 98 and the second one is for XP and newer. LOL.

    And I’ve actually had to do #1 and #2 sometimes… usually after using crazy VPN clients like Cisco’s.

  6. Brian said,

    July 26, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks Emon,

    Now you will, if you ever have a similar misfortune! :)

    No Laurie, you’re not S-O-L! There are plenty very good cigars that you can buy for less than $5 each. To being with, I’d recommend the CAO Gold. It’s a great all around, inexpensive cigar, with a 90 rating on Cigar Aficionado. I’m also a fan of the Sancho Panza Double Maduro, which you should be able to find for around $3. You can’t go wrong with anything by Ashton or Arturo Fuente, I believe both lines have cigars at or under $5 also.

    When you walk into into any good cigar store, the folks working there should both be able to make some recommendations and offer to do so. We cigar smokers are a friendly lot. :)

  7. Brian said,

    July 26, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    LOL abbydonkrafts,

    You can tell I spent a lot of time on Windoze 98, huh? Though I had laptops with ME, 2000 and XP on them, I still had that old beast of a PC running 98 with a bunch of old games. Sadly, it’s no longer with us, the hardware finally gave up the ghost. :)

  8. JoeDrinker said,

    July 26, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    When all else fails, head on over to the Apple store…

    ;) Just doing my part.

  9. babychaos said,

    July 27, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I have firefox and it does the same thing but only when I’m working on one particular site. Something on that one site sends it loopy. The rest of the time it’s fine.

    Thanks for this handy info, when it next happens, I’ll give your fixes a go!

    Cheers

    BC

    PS Joe, I have an iPod which broke ceaselessly for two years from the day after its warranty expired until I gave up on it… my view of apple is therefore tarnished…! ;-)

  10. Brian said,

    July 27, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Hey JD,

    My official response to that is “Oh no he di’n’t!” [Profuse head bobbing and waving mixed with finger snapping.] ;)

    Hi BC,

    Glad I could be (might be?) of help. Yeah, I keep hearing horror stories about the iPlod. In spite of that, I have to admit that one day, I may just buy one. Until then I’ll continue to enjoy my Archos players (AV340 and AV700)… Maybe I’ll just get the second generation iPhone…

  11. JoeDrinker said,

    July 29, 2007 at 12:22 am

    O ye-ah he di-id! That “switch team, buy an Apple” argument never gets old.

    I’ve never heard of anyone who’s iPod broke, at least not without some provocation. Must be the ones that get shipped across the pond are just that way. ;)

    Come to the dark side…

  12. Brian said,

    July 29, 2007 at 1:13 am

    Yeah JD, I hear that from time to time. As soon as I can start writing ASP.NET applications on an Apple, I’ll give it some thought.

    Most of the iPlod users I’ve talked to love them. They do look slick.

    Wait, wouldn’t that be “come to the shiny white side”? ;)

  13. Joe said,

    July 29, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Well, it used to be. The ones I’ve always had have been black. Plus, because of my tendency to drop things, I have it wrapped in a foam/nerf/industrial rubber suit. Which is also black.

  14. Brian said,

    July 30, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Hey Joe,

    My only question is, is it ribbed… never mind. Once you go… ahem, uh, yeah, if I ever do spring for one, I think I’d go for the black one too. (So… many… innuendos…) ;)


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