Saturday, November 25, 2006

Downloaded Files Disappear

My brother in law asked me a few weeks ago about a problem he was having. He would download files from the Internet - and they would "vanish". No sooner did the download finish, than the window would disappear and there would be no file to show for it. What really bothered me is that I have had that problem in the past and I couldn't for the life of me remember what I did to fix it.

Today I was there for Thanksgiving, and I noticed a few things. First, this was a "kids" computer. Kids do strange things with PC's that adults would never think of. Second, it had a lot of anti-spyware tools (maybe a few too many). Lastly, the copy of Symantec Antivirus that it had was a tad out of date.

So I went to work first removing as much as I could. First I tried to empty out the temporary Internet files ... which oddly enough seemed to hang and never complete. Could this be a problem from installing a new browser (Internet Explorer 7)? My brother in law says "this problem started before then, and I hoped it would go away with the upgrade". I agreed.

For my next trick I headed into Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel, and started removing. Anything that he and I couldn't identify, was removed. Then I took out Microsoft Defender, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Ad-Aware. All of them are good programs, but none of them were up to date (thanks to the inability to download anything). Lastly, I updated his Symantec Antivirus with the latest stuff - which actually took several reboots to accomplish.

After all the fiddling and removing of stuff - his browser worked once again. What did we remove that fixed it? My guess is that this was caused by Spybot Search and Destroy's Tea-Timer plug-in which is designed to protect your browser from outside threats. It's never been considered all that stable, and may cause more problems than it solves. But the idea of a browser protector seemed pretty good when it debuted. At any rate, it was likely protecting the browser in a way that made downloading or installing anything through the browser relatively impossible.

And some would probably say "why didn't you just install Firefox?". Let's say that your sink backs up and water starts shooting out onto the kitchen floor. Are you going to start washing dishes in the bathroom? Internet Explorer is a Windows component these days. If it's having a breakdown of some sort, it should be fixed. While it did take a good couple hours of off and on attention, it was good to see that I fixed it. The alternative was to of course reinstall Windows - and hundreds of kids games.

I'd say we made out.

-Steve Ballantyne