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Troubleshooting Internet Connection Problems

"Page cannot be displayed" and "Cannot find server" error messages

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Updated July 08, 2007

One day, you're surfing the Internet just fine. The next day, some or all of the sites you typically visit are no longer accessible. Troubleshooting "Page cannot be displayed" or "Cannot find server" error messages can be frustrating. There are a number of possible causes and it may take a bit of digging to get to the root of the problem. Here's how to troubleshoot some of the more common Internet connectivity problems.

Weed out the obvious
Before you begin searching for stripes on a horse to call it a zebra, check to make sure it isn't really just a horse. Take a deep breath, step back, and check the obvious. Don't skip this step - in most cases, the cause is much more benign than we might think.

  • Check to ensure the cables are connected properly.
  • If using wireless, check the router to ensure MAC address controls are either disabled or properly configured to allow access.
  • Make sure your Internet connection is working - use a second computer or ask a friend to swing by with their laptop to confirm.

    To assist with hardware troubleshooting, download Microsoft's Network Diagnostics for Windows XP tool

    Check for configuration issues
    In many cases, the "Page cannot be displayed" or "Cannot find server" error messages may be a result of a modified HOSTS file, problem with Internet Explorer settings, or an oversized index.dat file.

  • The HOSTS file is the virtual equivalent of the phone company's directory assistance. Where directory assistance matches a person's name to a phone number, the HOSTS file maps domain names to IP addresses. Take steps to check and protect the HOSTS file from unintended changes.
  • Burgeoning Internet history folders, caches of temporary files, and other stored browsing data can result in connectivity problems - from slow browsing to "Page cannot be displayed" or "Cannot find server" error messages. Internet Explorer uses will find a bevy of options available to tweak the settings necessary to enhance Internet connectivity.

    A corrupt Winsock
    Did you install new software, remove software, or update software recently? Did your antivirus or antispyware scanner remove a virus or other malware just prior to the problem occurring? If either of the above are true, the "Page cannot be displayed" or "Cannot find server" error messages may be a result of a corrupt Winsock or missing Licensed Service Provider (LSP).

  • Use LSP-Fix to repair LSP issues.

    After using LSP-Fix, reboot the system and attempt to access the Internet. If the problem still persists, follow the instructions outlined in Microsoft KB811259 to determine and recover from Winsock corruption.

    Note: the steps outlined in KB811259 are best suited for tech-savvy users. The less tech-inclined may wish to download WinSock XP Fix instead (for Windows XP only). Those using Windows 98/ME may wish to use Winsock2 Fix. While highly regarded by users, neither of these programs offer technical support and both should be used at your own risk.

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