NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
"This Page Cannot Be Displayed"
by Bill Shook, Editor, September 2001
(click to email author)

Anyone seen this displayed before? Bad -- but not quite as bad as the Blue Screen of Death. If you're unlucky, when logging onto the Internet you're confronted with the message -- "This Page Cannot Be Displayed". You're on the Internet but for all the good it does. It won't accept ANY addresses (URLs). Well, it accepts them but won't navigate to them.

What to do? Well, I started with the basics (not necessarily in this order). First, unchecking everything in the Startup tab of MSCONFIG and emptying the startup folder (\Windows\Start Menu\Programs.) No help. I tried different addresses of course, and different browsers - Internet Explorer(IE) 5.0, Netscape 4.7 and AOL, which uses IE 5.0. Cleaned up \Windows\Temp and \Windows\Temporary Internet Files, and browser caches and histories; also, \Windows\Downloaded Program Files folder (normally accessed through Control Panel/Internet Options or IE Tools/Internet Options). I didn't find anything that I thought contributed to the problem except maybe the CV3 CLASS program in Internet Options being damaged. But neither updating nor removing it helped (none of these program files can be renamed or relocated. Right clicking allows Updating or Removing. That's it.) Then, I thought I'd better update Windows, which controls these programs. Updating provided a new CV3 CLASS file and a couple of others not previously there, but, you guessed it, the problem persisted. All of this took some time, what with several interruptions.

Now I'm getting desperate. I uninstalled and reinstalled the modem. No help. Then I replaced it with another I had; still no help, but a lot of grief configuring the replaced modem and then later removing it to reinstall the original one.

Well, even though I never like to leave a problem until I know what caused it, I'd spent enough time for now and if I was going to get anything done, I'd better bring in a backup. I keep several copies of the C: partition on the C drive and on the slave drive, which are usually no more than 3-4 weeks old, if that. I try to backup weekly, but it slips once in a while. These of course are full backups (partition copying -- system files and all -- they're bootable). I create them with PowerQuest's (PQ) Drive Image or Partition Magic -- the operation is the same.

Speaking of backup, I thought Bob Brake of Gateway gave an excellent presentation on backup at the last meeting, but I noticed he referred to Ghost for copying without a mention of PQ, about which a member asked me following the meeting. Since these programs do the same things and PQ is also highly rated -- they're both good programs, I asked him about it. He said he didn't really have an opinion about PQ since Gateway uses Ghost and that's what he got used to. Sounds logical. As an aside, Bob Schwabach in the 8/20/01 Gazette on "Hard Drives Provide Easy Backup", refers readers to PowerQuest without a mention of Symantec (Ghost) --go figure. Incidentally, I was surprised and concerned that so few members raised their hands when Bob asked how many of you back up your hard drives. Talk about living dangerously! With all the discussions and questions we've had about backing up, I would have thought many more of you would be doing it. Obviously, none of you who didn't raise your hands have had "your" catastrophe yet. Remember, it's not If, but When. If we're not doing a good enough job explaining it so you can begin doing it, please speak up and ask for some help. 'Nuff on this for the moment.

Soooo, back to my story. After saving some email and directories that were changed since last backup, I called in my most recent backup, and it worked like a dream. I saved a few "screenshots" so I would know what certain settings looked like when it was working, because I knew it would be back. I also combed the Internet for any possible solutions - Microsoft and Internet Explorer, Netscape, and other help sites with not much gained.

Sure enough. a few days later the problem returned. None of the settings I'd saved were changed. So much for that! It was worth a try. I was now ready to call in the reserves -- technical support. I don't have a good batting average with them solving my problems, but you never know. I spent hours with a half dozen support people with Juno and AOL, the two ISPs I use. They all had different ideas, which I welcomed, and had me change so many things I found it near impossible taking notes. But still no fix. Several of them suggested reinstalling Windows, or the browsers. I had trouble accepting this. So I thought I'd leave it for the absolute last straw (I still have a few good backups left - this is meant only half way facetiously.) Sooo, I reinstalled the same backup and once again it worked like a dream.

Guess what? You don't want to hear this -- I didn't either! A few days later my "buddy" was back -- "This page cannot be displayed". So, I thought apparently I missed something in trying to reconstruct just what was going on and what I was doing from the time I restored the backups (twice) until it failed. It seemed to me that it failed after working with AOL mail, although I've worked with AOL mail many times without a failure. So, I spent some time "eye-balling" AOL settings and files, etc. Well, as some of you may know, AOL as well as certain other email programs have a size limit, AOL's is set by the user, on emails that must not be exceeded. It is supposed to give a warning when the size of the email file (in AOL it is called PFC for Personal File Cabinet and includes other items like Favorites, etc.) is reaching the limit. Well, it uses virtual memory (VM), temporary holding place for RAM (Random Access Memory) programs, and when it exceeds the specified size, it conflicts with other things using VM, like Internet access. What happened was when I restored the backups I was close to the limit and after working with it a few days it went over the limit and no Internet access; but I never got a warning! AOL tech support told me the failure to not get a warning is due to a problem in IE and the IE repair feature in Windows Setup wouldn't repair it. On a call to Microsoft they told me they never heard of it.

Ok, once I did major surgery on the PFC file to get it WELL below the limit (its the one with the filename beginning with your screen name and located in the \organize directory of AOL), I got down to about 25 received and 25 sent messages and NO Favorites and it was STILL 5.25 megabytes! Obviously, it's corrupted, so I saved it for possible later use of the emails, then deleted it and AOL built me another one. It loads a lot faster and I have no problem accessing the Internet. How about that!

I thought 'While I'm at it..." VM rang some bells, like I seemed to remember that performance is enhanced with a permanent VM file (Win386.swp) rather than letting Windows manage it -- no fragmentation after the initial defragging and a lot less "thrashing" of the hard drive; also, putting it in a drive other than C, especially if the other drive is faster. Get to VM by holding the Alt key while double clicking on My Computer, then select the Performance tab.

Lastly, assign the C drive to use DMA (Direct Memory Access) so time is saved since it doesn't have to go through the CPU. The hard drive needs to be DMA compatible, which most current drives are. Get to DMA with the Alt key and double clicking on My Computer, then the Device Manager tab, then double click on your hard drive, then on the Settings tab. So, I did all these things and although I hesitate to say it aloud, I could almost hear my PC say Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. It hasn't run this good in quite a while.

See the following articles in CMP's TechWeb for more on performance enhancement:

"Soup Up Your Hard Drive with DMA" by Fred Langa http://content.techweb.com/winmag/columns/explorer/1999/1206.htm

"The Nearly Secret DMA Can Speed Up Your Drives" by Fred Langa http://content.techweb.com/winmag/columns/explorer/2001/02.htm

"Real-World Answers about Virtual Memory" by Fred Langa http://content.techweb.com/winmag/columns/explorer/1999/0913.htm

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