How to Fix a Computer That Won't Display a Web Page

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If, when trying to visit your favorite website, you’re greeted by a 404 error screen, the problem may not reside in some far off server…it may be right at your fingertips. Inaccessible websites could be caused by corrupt code blocking the pipeline or, more seriously, by some nasty malware lurking deep within your directory. In any case, there are some active measures you can take if you find that typically stable websites seem to have disappeared.

DNS Issues
Browsers are designed to retain and recall frequently visited Web addresses. The URL data is stored in the browser’s DNS cache, which auto-populates the full URL once the first few characters are typed in the browser’s address bar. This time-saving feature can become a headache if the site administrator changes the IP or otherwise moves the site to a different server. Should this happen before your DNS cache receives the updated URL information, you could be blocked from the site. The solution is to clear your DNS cache.

If you are running on a Windows XP, 2000, Vista, or 7 operating system, follow these steps to clear the DNS cache:

Click the "Start" button
Click "Run" on the Start menu
Type "ipconfig / flushdns" (without quotes) in the Run text box
Press "Enter"

Windows 8 requires a slightly different procedure:

Select "Win+X" to open the WinX menu
Right-click on the Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator
Type "ipconfig / flushdns" (without quotes) in the Run Text box
Press "Enter"

Flash Issues
If you’ve ever watched a video or other animated application on your computer, you’re most likely running Adobe Flash. If your Flash program is not configured properly, you could accumulate third-party Flash cookies that block the path to certain URLs.

Follow these steps to safely configure your Flash program:

Open the Control Panel
Select "System and Security"
Locate the Flash Player icon and open it
On the Storage tab, select the option to “Block all sites from storing information on this computer”
On the Advanced tab, select the option to “Allow Adobe to install updates”

Javascript Vulnerability
Much of the dynamic functionality on your favorite websites is the result of server-side JavaScript and your browser’s capacity to read, interpret, and execute it. Unfortunately, hackers are adept at attaching malicious code to JavaScript files on otherwise legitimate sites. Once your browser executes the site’s JavaScript commands, the malicious code is given an open pathway to your computer’s hard drive. Some of this bad code is designed to redirect your browser to different sites, often sleazy sales splash pages or pornographic sites.

Disabling JavaScript in your browser may be an option, provided the sites you visit don’t rely on server-side scripting to load and run properly. A better solution is to install top-of-the-line virus protection and, more importantly, to regularly check for and download system updates. Don’t wait for your computer to automatically update when you log off; you could have important updates waiting in queue. Follow these steps to manually check for updates:

Open the Start menu
Select the "Control Panel"
Under Security, open the “check for updates” link
Download all important updates (and optional updates, if so desired)

Overprotective Parenting
All modern browsers are equipped with a parental control feature, so check to make sure you didn’t inadvertently block some of your favorite sites while trying to protect young eyes from the salacious side of the Internet.

Check the Internet settings of whichever browser you tend to use. If you’re using Internet Explorer, follow these steps to check the browser’s parental control settings:

Open your browser and go into the Tools category
Select "Internet Options"
Click on the "Security" tab
Click on the "Restricted Sites" icon
Sites that are quarantined will be listed in bottom field
Select the site you want to remove from Parental Control
Click the "Remove" button

Remember that your ISP and your hosting service can be very helpful in troubleshooting a browsing issue. Don’t hesitate to enlist their help, but if they deduce that the problem is not a server issue, you can try the techniques outlined here before contacting your computer manufacturer.