Question: I have Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 newly downloaded and installed on my Windows 95 computer. When I click on various links on the web – both text links and graphic buttons – more than half the time I get back a blank screen. If I type web addresses into my browser, I usually get the web page I want without a problem. I’d appreciate it if you have some hints. —Gerry
Answer: Further investigation showed that the various errors Gerry was receiving stemmed from either faulty links on a web page, poor programming, or a web server that was not functioning – probably not anything Gerry had done wrong at all.
Here’s a guide on how to diagnose various Web page errors.
First, make sure you have a good connection to the web. If you’re using a dial-up service, where your modem connects across a phone line to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), you may experience a dropped connection. Essentially this means that the modem has disconnected. Normally your computer will alert you to this, but sometimes it seems connected but is not really communicating with the web any more. To remedy the problem, you’ll have to hang up the modem and restart your session.
Sometimes a web server—a computer where web pages are stored—is having technical difficulties. You can verify whether a website is online by using the built-in utility called Ping that comes with Windows. Ping programs can also be found for Macintosh systems.
Ping is a utility that asks if a server is responding normally. To run Ping under Windows:
- Go to Start > Run, and type the word ping and a space, followed by the website you’re trying to connect with, then hit your Enter key.
- A DOS window will open and, if the server responds, you will see a reply with the amount of time (measured in milliseconds) it took to get a response. A good way to check the existence of a connection is to ping Yahoo.com or ping Google.com, since they are almost always responsive.
If you know the IP address of a website, you can also ping that. An IP address is the numeric address used to identify a Web connected computer. It looks like this X.X.X.X where X is any number from 0 to 255. The TechnologyTips website IP address, for example, is 126.96.36.199. (Note: Since this article was written, TechnologyTips’s IP address has changed).
If a ping is successful it means two things—(1) that there is a good connection from your computer to the internet and (2) that the computer you are pinging is responding normally.
If you can get a positive ping response from a website, but a specific link isn’t working, then it could be the fault of the website. Webmasters can get their web programming syntax wrong. One misplaced character is enough to cause a failure.
For example, if the link you are clicking is programmed as www.cberwalker.net
instead of www.cyberwalker.com, you will get a failed response…and it’s nothing you did wrong.
If you suspect that a link is bad, it’s always a good idea to report it to the webmaster of the site through the site’s “Contact us” page. Provide the web address of the page where you found the malfunctioning link, as well as the address of the link itself that failed.
Speaking of errors, different brands of web browsers will often respond differently to failed links. Internet Explorer will respond with “Page cannot be displayed”. Netscape will respond with “Web server not found” or “Not Found. The requested URL /web-page-name-here.html is not found on this server”. Older versions of Netscape, as well as some other browsers, may identify this as a “404 – Not Found” error.
One of the most common errors in links is the addition of a space or bad punctuation. You may be able to correct this yourself by looking at the link address, which will pop into your address or location area of your browser when you click the link. If you remove the offending blank space(s) or correct the punctuation and try again, you just might be get through to the page you want. And remember this—it is http:// … not http;// (what’s wrong there is the semicolon instead of the colon) and not http:/ (what’s wrong there is a missing slash).
Less common server errors include 500 (internal server error), which indicates a software error on the server. A 401 (unauthorized) error means you need a password to access the web page as on a site that requires a subscription.
Sometimes it takes a little detective work, but it’s worth it if you think the page contains something you really want to see!