Browsing for a browser solution

I have an odd problem. I am on the road and working from my laptop.

I can connect to the internet (I can upload and download with my FTP program).

I cannot view any page using Firefox, IE, Chrome, or Opera.  However, Safari does work!

Using the aforementioned, I get

  • Opera: Connection closed by remote server
  • IE: Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage
  • Firefox: The connection was reset
  • Chrome: No data received Unable to load the webpage because the server sent no data.

Any ideas?

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you will say, “This is proof from on high that you should just get a Mac!”

I respond to such people that they should consult my “Get A Mac!” Fund link on the right side-bar of this blog and make a large donation.

UPDATE 6 March 13:53 GMT:

I fixed it.

I did a “restore” from a restore point two days ago.

Clearly some setting or other was changed or some update did a nefarious thing.

Everything seems to be back to normal.

I back things up frequently, regularly.  I try to do some cleanup and tidying every Saturday morning.  Thus, I have fairly frequent system restore points.  They can be handy.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. zapman449 says:

    Do you perchance have a proxy configured at home? [Nope. That isn’t the problem.] Poking around through the various browser proxy configs may help.

    Otherwise, this smells like a virus may be playing with your laptop. Not fun.


  2. As a Mac user (Dell XPS m1530 crash a year ago – am I glad I switched) I used Firefox and Chrome for a while but eventually switched to Safari (I really liked Firefox too) but every time I tried to access video they froze and the whole Mac froze with them. With Safari no problems. If you have decent virus protection it’s unlikely a virus unless someone maliciously sent one. As zapman449 said have a look at the browser configs. Will say a prayer you find a solution.

  3. APX says:

    Have you tried tethering off your iPhone’s 3G network? That’s what I do when normal Internet gets stupid on me. It has saved me so many times with school and submitting assignments. [Not the issue, really.]

  4. atmoe says:

    Could be a DNS issue. Try turning off prefetching/caching of DNS data since you’re moving around so much. Each browser should have their own setting for this.

  5. bluesky74656 says:

    Sounds like a virus. My favorite removal tool is Malwarebytes. You can get it from cnet (I would post a link but can’t find it on my iPhone).

    Also check for the existence of your hosts file at c:/windows/system32/etc/drivers/hosts. You should only have a listing in there for local host.

    Even though you said you don’t use a proxy, check to make sure one hasn’t been accidentally or maliciously set.

  6. Maltese says:

    Microsoft systems are virus-sponges. My suggestion (which is what I did), mirror your HD with an external drive, get a throw-computer (I have a $300 Toshiba), and plan to get a Mac in the near future (which I plan to do, they have 1/10th the virus problems). [Make the donation.]

    But, I would save your throw computer and do all of your emailing on it. Save your Mac for posting blogs. Your enemies may be sending you malware even though you may not open a link. My hotmail account was hacked into, and I had to shut it down. If a hacker is sophisticated, a firewall is useless.

  7. If you have Norton AntiVirus or Zone Alarm, try updating them.

  8. thefeds says:

    I would suggest re-downloading Internet Explorer or Chrome, and re-installing the browser. Perhaps this will work…

  9. Emilio III says:

    If your reply to zapman449 above only meant that you don’t use a proxy server at home, please check your proxy settings anyway. If it meant that you had checked them… never mind! :-)

  10. bluesky74656 says:

    You an also try resetting winsock by opening a command prompt and typing netsh winsock reset.

  11. frodo says:

    “But Father! But Father!”, some of you will say, “This is proof from on high that you should just get a Mac!”

    Any sentence that ends with “…get a Mac!” should be continually discerned with guidance by the Holy Spirit until it changes to “…nevermind.”

  12. JohnE says:

    If it’s something with DNS, you can use nslookup from a DOS prompt and see if it’s using the DNS server you expect. Enter an address such as and see if it resolves ok. I use for my DNS (which is Google’s public DNS that is supposedly faster)

    Is this from a hotel? Did they give you some sort of sign-in? On a recent road trip, I was able to easily connect my iPod, but my wife had a bear getting her Windows 7 laptop to connect.

  13. frjim4321 says:

    I am sorry – forgive my ignorance – but just wondering, if Safari is working do you still have full functionality, and is your need to run the other browsers just to see if they will run?

    Is this happening in just one location, or in just one hotspot?

    I have an IT buddy I can ask . . .

  14. Emilio III says:

    Assuming the proxy and virus/malware causes have been ruled out, you might check firewall settings to see if http is being blocked for some reason. Since ftp works, you know that both network and DNS are working you might try another protocol such as POP3:

    telnet 110
    Connected to
    Escape character is ‘^]’.
    +OK POP3 ready
    Connection closed by foreign host.

    No need to enter any command other than “quit” since all you’re doing is checking connection. If you see the OK prompt, that’s enough. In that case, try the HTTP port 80:

    telnet 80
    Connected to
    Escape character is ‘^]’.

    501 Method Not Implemented

    Method Not Implemented
    get to /index.html not supported.
    Invalid method in request get

    Apache/1.3.29 Server at Port 80

    Connection closed by foreign host.
    I used “get” there, but practically anything you type will give a similar result: error message and closed connection. But it would show that the problem is with your browser settings. Unlikely, but worth a try. If you don’t get a connection, you know the problem is not there…

  15. Marius2k4 says:

    First, reboot. If that doesn’t solve the problem:

    1) Make sure nothing is blocking port 80 in your firewall, and that your firewall has no rules prohibiting access to certain browsers.

    2) Is your HOSTS file corrupt? Open C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc and then open the “hosts” file with a text editor like Notepad. For most people, there should be no lines without #s preceding them (which comments them out).

    3) Go to Control Panel->Internet Properties, go to the connections tab, click “LAN Settings”, and make sure you’re set to “automatically detect settings” and that “Proxy Server” is unchecked, unless you really need one and know what you’re doing. I haven’t had to use this since I needed to get around our content filter in Jr High and High School.

    4) Go to Control panel -> Network and Sharing Center and click on “Change Adapter Settings”. Right-click the adapter you’re using (e.g., “Wireless Network Connection 2”), and check out the adapters you have listed under the networking tab. I generally disable IPv6, but look for anything suspicious.

    If none of that works, I’m not quite sure what to do. I can’t imagine why only Safari would work, and so many superior browsers would not. My money is on a firewall rule. If you’ve got FTP access, and http over one particular browser, there’s likely something software-related going on.

  16. Maltese says:

    Make the donation. Done. I know your blog is an act of love, but you too need some compensation for the work you do.

    I don’t want to be complicit in one of the four sins (or is it five, or seven?) which cry out to heaven for justice, cheating a man of his Just Labors!

  17. dafrenchman says:

    As far as MAC goes I used Snow Leopard and Lion for a while. Not to say MAC is no good. It works and is less prone to virus, but definetely not bug free as was seen with Lion launch, and some emergency patches.
    I think Mint Linux 12 is better. When one is on a budget it is GREAT.
    And It can run on a PC. You should try it in Virtualbox setup first. If you like it you can setup with mint4win, which would setup dual booting without partitioning. This way you retain your windows setup.
    And once you are fully converted you can redo the system as a pure Mint system.

    Just some options for you.

  18. frjim4321 says:

    Emilio – – –

    That brings back happy memories! I have not used TELNET since the old days on the VAX mainframe.

    Anyway, if Fr. Z. is telnetting using the Microsoft Telnet Client, won’t he have to include the “open” command, as in:

    Microsoft Telnet Client> o telnet 110

    A good day to all!

    – – – Jim Blue

  19. cregduff says:

    Are you using some kind of Anti-viral sw? Is it possible it’s set very tightly and has found something? Safari often runs differently than the other browsers. The AV sw could be plug-in s to the other browsers and cause an issue. I’ll bet you can even ping the web server but not browse it.
    Try disabling AV and retry. If that’s it, something in the logs may show what it found recently.

  20. ContraMundum says:

    I was at a conference last week, and although my windows partition gave me the blue screen of death, the Linux partition on my laptop worked.

    Unless you’re storing movies or something silly like that, there is more than enough room on your laptop for both a Windows partition and a Linux partition. There are viruses that infect Linux, but they are less common.

  21. ContraMundum says:

    Never use telnet! Use SSH instead.

  22. wmeyer says:

    The generic answers about things like port 80, or DNS, are off the mark. Those would affect Safari as much as the other four. It is interesting, though, that IE is among the four, given that IE is easily the most different (read: non-compliant) in the group. The real clue seems to me to be that Safari works. Someone with a deeper knowledge of Safari’s operation might be able to diagnose the real cause.

  23. wmeyer says:

    Found something which may shed some light, here:

    The basic suggestion is to run in a command window: tracert

    Capture the results, and post here. The person who reported a similar problem was bouncing to unlikely places, not getting to his goal.

  24. MarylandBill says:

    I hate Windows… a couple of weeks ago I was trying to debug a relative’s computer. It definitely saw the home network, but I couldn’t get the browser to connect to the internet. Ended up resetting the thing since turning off the firewall didn’t even help.

    Here, make sure that Safari doesn’t have some sort of proxy setting. If we can figure out why Safari is working then we can fix the other browsers.

    I will second the Linux recommendation, though depending on the computer, you might need some help getting it up and running properly. Once it is set up though, you will find it works great.

    BTW, I don’t recommend a throw away computer. Assuming you stick with windows, setting up virtualization probably will be far more convenient.

  25. Mary Jane says:

    That is an odd problem you’re having Fr Z. I haven’t seen that one before. I would echo the “get a Mac”, and also point out that the $$ in your “Mac Fund” right now is enough to get you a nice Mac machine. ;-)

  26. tioedong says:

    you have an anti-virus/anti phishing software on your computer that doesn’t allow redirecting. (redirecting is one way that your computer can be grabbed by an outside fiend).
    I had the same problem last week. I had downloaded some software that included a toolbar with this protection, and found I couldn’t get my email etc.

    To delete it I had to open control panel, and then open the “install/uninstall software” icon. Run down the list of programs on your computer and see if there is one that is a toolbar or anti phishing software. Delete it and then reboot.

  27. Emilio III says:

    Sorry, I missed the fact that Safari works, so as wmeyer says my advice was useless for the real problem (though it would have been useful for the problem I imagined. :-)

    Fr. Jim, I usually run telnet from the command line, so would use “telnet 110” rather than open the telnet client first and then use the open command. I see now that the current Microsoft telnet client works better the way you indicate. It is not a proper console application, which I did not realize.

    ContraMundum, for the tests indicated telnet is the proper tool. You could use an SSH client such as putty for this, but it would still be using telnet mode.

  28. Emilio III says:

    wmeyer, “http://” should be left out of the tracert command. (I know, it’s a habit to put it in.)

  29. wmeyer says:

    Emilio, I know it should. It was not in what I typed, so I suppose that the fine editor for blog messages decorated it for me. Interesting….

  30. I solved the problem by doing a restore to a restore point from two days ago. Obviously some update didn’t go well or some setting was changed one way or another and that undid the change that caused the problem.

    It pays to be disciplined in the spiritual life just as it pays to be disciplined in doing some regular computer maintenance!

    Therefore, go to confession regularly.

    In the meantime, you can keep the tech discussion going, which is interesting in itself.

    Some of the solutions offered here were rather complicated. In the end, it was something simple that undid the knot.

  31. From time to time I need to run
    ipconfig /flushdns
    netsh int ip reset resetlog.txt

    Also sometimes the HOSTS file gets edited(maybe by spyware) and needs to be repaired.

    Windows seems to perpetually have problems with Winsock, it is much better than earlier versions.

  32. APX says:

    @Fr. Z
    “Some of the solutions offered here were rather complicated. In the end, it was something simple that undid the knot.”

    System Restore for the win! The day I discovered System Restore was one of the happiest days of my computer using life. Unfortunately Macs don’t have such features, yes they are pretty easy to mess up royally, and expensive to repair.

  33. Paul M says:

    Wow, congratulations, Father. When I had a PC, the System Restore feature never seemed to work properly.

    btw, for those on a Mac: if your computer has noticeably slowed, open “Disk Utility” and “repair permissions”. It works like a charm.

  34. Slappo says:

    Once you go Mac you can’t wait to go back.

    Self assigned IP address problem anyone? I have to reset my router usually once every couple months because my mac decides to set it’s own IP address rather than let my service provider & router assign one. I’ve googled the situation a couple times and have never seen an easy solution. My next computer will NOT be a mac, especially when I can get the same features for half the price on a PC!

  35. wmeyer says:

    Slappo: If you have an Intel Mac, you can run Windows on it. I know a number of software developers who do that, and are very pleased with the results.

  36. The Cobbler says:

    System Restore is one of those rare things where Microsoft makes things so easy even the Mac-inclined have to concede it’d be nice to have something of the sort outside of Windowsland.

    Just be careful if you’re a web developer — I’m pretty sure it looks at file types, not where you put them or whether there’s a log of the install, and therefore (at least, I can only imagine the foregoing is why it does the following) can eat your .js files in your web development project directory. Proper use of a repository or a backup should prevent that from being an issue, however. Also, once in a while there’s no replacement/workaround for uninstalling and/or reinstalling an application, so keep the original installers/CDs/whatever for any software you like. Other than those two issues I haven’t had any problems with it, though.

    All that said, for problems of settings corruption or viruses, System Restore is often the most effective thing to try. Why clean up damage when you can seemingly turn back time to before it happened?

  37. wmeyer says:

    System Restore can save you… sometimes. At a former employer’s shop, I had a system which would occasionally lose its tiny mind. I don’t recall the details, but it was involved with a network behavior. I would do a system restore, and all would be well. For a while. The interval between restores grew smaller and smaller. Finally, with a vacation coming up, I arranged for the IT department to re-image the machine. (That had not been done before the machine was issued to me.) After that, I had no further problems. IT also replaced fans, and did a thorough internal cleaning.

    Just don’t get feeling too secure….

  38. dafrenchman says:

    I thought MAC had Time Machine that does the same as system restore?

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