5 steps to fix the most common browser issues
For most of us, our web browsers are an essential part of our daily lives, giving us access to all the wonders the internet has to offer: news, social media, music and video, email and everything in between.
So it is only natural that if something goes wrong with your browser, the problem will turn into a major problem for you. The good news is that as long as you know what you’re doing, finding out what’s wrong doesn’t have to be that hard.
The basic steps to fix any browser problem are the same, so whatever your problem is, you should start by fixing them one by one. We’ve focused on desktop browsers here, but you can adapt these tips quite easily for their mobile app versions as well.
1. Check your internet connection
When troubleshooting a computer problem, you need to identify the exact cause before you do anything else. Otherwise, you might be tampering with something that doesn’t need to be fixed. In this case, that means making sure it’s your browser that’s down, rather than, say, your internet connection.
The easiest way to test this is to try another browser and see if it can connect to the internet. You can also try different devices (like smartphones and tablets) and different apps (like music or movie streaming apps) to see if they can connect or not.
If everything else can connect to the web, then yes, it looks like your web browser is down. If nothing else can access the web, it’s not a browser issue, it’s a problem with your home network. Luckily, we have some troubleshooting ideas for that as well.
2. Audit your browser extensions
Nothing ruins a browser better than an extension, which means that if something goes wrong while you’re browsing the web, there just might be an add-on to blame. Start by heading to your browser’s list of extensions and evaluating them. They should be easy to find in any browser, but if you’re using Google Chrome, click on the three dots (top right), then navigate to More toolsand Extensions.
First, we recommend uninstalling any extensions you no longer use to reduce browser clutter and removing any potentially outdated code that is causing problems. You will need to restart your browser (and ideally your computer) each time you remove one or more extensions. This will help you see if the changes you made had an effect.
When you get to the key extensions you actually use, uninstall them one by one to see if that fixes the problem. If you find an extension to be to blame, see if there is an alternative available or contact the browser developer for further assistance.
3. Clear cache
Browsers generally keep certain elements of websites saved on your device. These files are called cache. For example, if a background image on a website has not changed, there is no need to download it each time you visit. This is how caching helps your browser load sites faster. However, sometimes problems can arise if the cache database is corrupted in some way.
This can mean that you end up seeing older versions of web pages or that you are having problems using interactive components on a site. The latter case occurs because your browser may not know whether to load newer code from the web or older code from disk.
The solution is to clear your browser cache and start over. (Pro tip: It’s also worth doing this regularly, whether you’re having trouble or not.) If you don’t know how to do this in your browser, you should be able to find instructions on the web. In Safari, for example, choose Safarithen go to Preferences, Privacyand Manage website data. Once you are there, click on the remove all button.
4. Open your browser settings
Your browser settings can sometimes cause page breaks. This can result in buttons or forms not working, or entire sections missing. Specifically, this can happen when you configure your browser to be as strict as possible about blocking tracking cookies and aggressive web advertising. So if this happens to you, you may have to make a choice between dealing with bad websites every once in a while and having bits of code follow you around the web to sell you stuff later.
From your browser’s main settings page, you should see a section with a title that goes something along the lines of “Privacy, Cookies and Tracking”. In Microsoft Edge, for example, click the three dots (top right), then choose Settingsthen Privacy, Research and Services. Under the Tracking Prevention title, there are three options—Basic, Balanceand strict. You will notice that the last contains a warning about this, which could cause parts of the sites to stop working.
So if you are using Microsoft Edge and you see strange behavior on sites while Tracking Prevention is set to stricttry to select Balance Where Basic In place. You won’t see the exact same options in other browsers, but there will be something similar, so you should be able to easily dial in ad and tracker blocking. If you find that certain sites only work with tracking enabled, you’ll need to decide whether you’d rather give up some of your online privacy or give up using the site altogether.
5. Update and reinstall your browser
If you are still having trouble getting your browser to work normally, uninstall it from your system, then download and reinstall it. This will ensure that you are running a clean, up-to-date version of the software and should get rid of any temporary files or options that may have become corrupted.
On Windows, you can uninstall a browser by opening Settings from the Start menu, then choosing appsso what Apps and features—click on the three dots next to your browser, then Uninstall. On macOS, drag the browser icon from the Applications tab in Finder to the trash icon in the dock to remove it from disk. You can then jump online and download your browser again.
One feature offered by Firefox that you don’t get in other browsers is a refresh tool. It’s like doing a factory reset on your phone, and it returns all settings and additional information to their original state, without you having to worry about uninstalling your browser and reinstalling it. To access it, click the menu button (three lines, top right), then choose To help, More troubleshooting information and Refresh Firefox.