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April 13, 1998

The official word from Microsoft: We will fix Explorer soon

In my past two columns, I have described some of the odd behaviors of Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and Explorer 4.0 and outlined some fixes suggested by readers and other software providers. There are three primary problems:

  • The Subscription feature of Explorer works erratically for many readers.

  • The Back button doesn't use Explorer's local cache to quickly re-display a Web page you were previously viewing, but instead reloads the page from the Internet.

  • Explorer's Web cache itself seems to delete material at random, rather than deleting the least recently viewed material in the cache. This may partially explain the first two problems.

A cure for the strange cache behavior is CacheSentry, which we discussed last week. David Pochron from Enigmatic Software says he may turn this free utility into shareware.

I said last week that I would print in this column Microsoft's response to readers' complaints. Well, I got a response, all right, and at least it's a step in the right direction.

After numerous phone calls and e-mail exchanges defining the problem, Microsoft spokesman Bill Zolna left me a voice-mail message: "Microsoft will fix the problem in future versions of Internet Explorer."

Zolna didn't return several calls from me seeking clarification about which problem was going to be fixed and when.

At least we know someone is aware of these problems and that users want a fix for them. Microsoft's Explorer newsgroup, microsoft.public.inetexplorer.ie4, buzzes with rumors of a forthcoming Service Pack for Explorer 4.01, but no one says when it will be released.

In the meantime, Windows 95 and Windows NT users are reporting some significant headaches related to Explorer use. Reader J.S. Robinson writes that a model stock portfolio that he updates from the Internet gave faulty valuations. Stocks he had deleted from his holdings were still showing up in the calculations. The technical-support personnel at Robinson's data service advised him to shut down and reboot NT to clear Explorer 4.0's memory cach, or to use Netscape's browser. Robinson switched to Netscape, and the problem was eliminated.

Other readers have found ways to adapt Explorer to their own needs. Michael Markus writes that some users' Windows NT 4.0 Workstation machines started taking 5 to 10 minutes to shut down after his company changed from Explorer 3.0 to Explorer 4.0.

Markus found that Explorer 4.0 defaults to storing its cache files in C:\WinNT\Profiles\User\Temporary Internet Files. When a user logs off, NT tries to synchronize the workstation profile with the roaming profile maintained on the domain server. This causes an enormous delay as tens of megabytes are swapped. Markus solved the problem by clicking View, Internet Options, Settings and configuring Explorer 4.0 to store its cache in C:\WinNT\Temporary Internet Files -- just as Explorer 3.0 did. You must then restart NT, making sure the files are moved and the unwanted folder deleted.

Software vendors see opportunities to improve Explorer. The Naviscope Browser Utility (, Web 3000's NetSonic (, and Connectix's Surf Express ( are three new add-ons. I haven't tested them; I'm merely reporting that they exist, so let me know if they help you in your work.

Brian Livingston is the co-author of several best-selling Windows books, including the most recent Windows 95 Secrets (IDG Books). Send comments to Unfortunately, he cannot answer individual questions.

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