5 ways to diagnose a website that's not working

When a website doesn't load, do you blame yourself, your ISP, or the website? Try one of these tests to find out.

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Lincoln Spector

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Ian M. Wright asked why a particular website wouldn’t load for him, while others did without fail.

When something gets lost in that complex communication mishmash that we call the Internet, it’s not always easy to figure out who is to blame. But you need to know. Because if the problem is yours, it’s not going to go away until you’ve fixed it.

Try these tests to solve the problem.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

1. See if the problem is out of your hands

The website you wish to access just might not be up right now. To find out, visit Everyone Or Just Me and enter the problematic website’s URL.

If the site tells you that “It’s not just you,” you may as well relax. There’s nothing you can do but wait for someone else to fix their technical problem.

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But if you’re told “It’s just you,” keep reading.

2. Try another browser

Whatever browser you’re using, try something else. There could be a conflict between your browser and the website in question.

In the long term, this isn’t a very satisfactory solution—especially if you’re attached to a particular browser. But it works in a pinch, and you can start doing some research on why that particular site has problems with that particular browser.

3. Try the IP address

Remember that a domain name is just a friendly label. The real location is the IP address. Try entering that in the browser.

But first, you have to get the IP address. Go to Whois Domain Name Lookup, make sure the Who Is tab is selected, and enter the domain name.

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After you’ve proved yourself human with a simpler-than-most CAPTCHA-like test, you’ll get a screen with a lot of data. Scroll down to the second section, Geo Information, for the IP address.

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4. Alter your hosts file

This file contains specific exceptions to domain names and IP addresses. Perhaps there’s something wrong here—a likely possibility if the domain name failed and the IP address worked.

Use your Windows Search tool to find notepad %windir%\System32\drivers\etc\hosts.

This will bring the hosts file up in Notepad. Search for the site name.  If you find it, put a hash tag (#) at the beginning of the line. Save and close the file.

5. Make sure you didn’t block the site

Search for Internet options and open the Control Panel tool. Select the Security tab, the Restricted sites icon, and then the Sites button.

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If the site is on the list, remove it.

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