Down the Rabbit Hole with IE9

"How cheerfully it seems to grin!
      How neatly spreads its claws!
    And welcomes little fishes in
      With gently-smiling jaws!"

~  "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", Lewis Carroll

I am sure my adventures with Internet Explorer 9 have only begun. They all started when a new Twitter follower tweeted that my website looked a little wacky when he opened it with IE9. Of course, I wanted to fix it fast! Well, at least I fixed it. This is a story about how I went about troubleshooting my blog’s wackiness in IE9.

Don’t worry. I will try my best to not get too technical. After all, my blog is supposed to offer practical advice for the everyday computer user. But I am sure many average computer users are pulling their hair out over IE9. And, I can’t offer advice to people who cannot read my blog!  So, after I tell you a little of my adventure, I will try to help you get IE9 working the way it should.

Microsoft first tried to help us love IE9 by forcing it on us. That tactic did not make me like broccoli either! If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7, IE9 sneaked onto your computer in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning with a Windows automatic update.

If you didn’t panic that Wednesday because you couldn’t find menus and buttons where they used to be, then you may have when you went to one of your favorite sites and found it had disappeared altogether! Not every one that was infected with the IE9 stealth install experienced this horror, but many did.

Then to further endear its customers, Microsoft thought they would hide how you can uninstall IE9. You won’t find it in your Control Panel / Programs and Features, where you would go to uninstall any other program. If you want to go back to IE8, you will have to go to Control Panel / Programs and Features / Installed Updates, find the IE9 update and uninstall it.

My real adventure began when I tried to search the Internet for information about why IE9 was showing blank pages for some websites. Google “IE9 shows blank pages”. Go ahead. I dare you!  Now, you would think that the expert on this subject would be Microsoft. Right? Well maybe, if you have a few days to comb through their “social support” and knowledge bases.

After reviewing countless web pages from Microsoft, WordPress, Google and many others, I finally began to piece together what may be happening. Searching Microsoft for help is like wandering around in a maze at twilight wearing sunglasses. Their support articles want you to click on buttons that don’t exist, select menu items from menus that aren’t there, and finally, they tell you if their suggestions don’t work, then undoing them might.

After chasing wild geese all over the place, I finally stumbled upon a comment on a forum that caught my attention. Someone noticed IE9 seemed to behave erratically when it attempted to load web pages that use Google's Custom Search Engine (CSE). They claimed their website worked fine with IE9 before but, all of a sudden  IE9 wouldn't load it at all! I followed the discussion thread for several comments, and chased a few more geese, but finally... Eureka! Someone commented that Google recently changed their CSE code, but they gave CSE customers the option to use the old version (V1). Sure enough, when I reverted back to CSE V1, my blog no longer suffered from IE9 wackiness!

You won't be able to do anything on your computer, or in your settings, to resolve IE9 issues like this. Google, Microsoft, programmers and webmasters will have work through these IE9 issues. I think most will eventually be resolved. I just wish Microsoft gave us an easier option for staying with IE8, instead of forcing us to use a browser that's not ready for prime time!

Here is how you may fix some of IE9’s many other issues on your computer:

By default, IE9 installs configured to use something called hardware acceleration. This seems to be one of the biggest culprits for IE9 problems. The next wonderful option that was configured for you is the “Tracking Protection”. I guess they thought that websites cannot track you, if you can’t get to them!

Then, there are the good old compatibility mode settings left over from IE8. Microsoft says you should try to view web pages that were not written for “modern browsers” like IE8 or IE9, in compatibility mode. Excuse me! IE has been trying to catch up to the rest of the world every since modern browsers like Firefox started stealing market share from IE6. Now they are not even leading the newest browser, Chrome!

First, if you aren’t having problems, don’t do anything! But if you are, try these suggestions:

  • Click on the little gear thingy at the top right of IE and select “Internet Options”.
  • Click on the Advanced tab.
  • Notice the very first setting is “Accelerated Graphics” (They knew you were coming!)
  • Check the box next to “Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering*” (You can try to reverse this after you upgrade your video driver. Good luck!)
  • Click on Apply, then OK.
  • Click on the little gear thingy again and go to “Manage add-ons”.
  • Disable “Tracking Protection”
  • It is probably a good idea to disable all your add-ons for now. You can add them back one at a time after you can see web pages again.
  • Finally, experiment with “Compatibility mode”. You will have to right click the very top bar and select  “Menu bar” because they hid that from you too! Compatibility view is on the Tools menu.
If you have tried all of these settings and you are still having trouble, install Firefox or Chrome and don’t look back!