When a search results in “can’t be displayed,” it could be ad-blockers, a proxy server setting, or something else, writes Patrick Marshall. Other topics this week: rebooting an out-of-date computer with a new hard drive, and anti-virus products for Kindle.
Q: I run Windows 10, though the problem I report here also happened with Windows 8.
More frequently than I’d like I get an immediate response to my attempts at a variety of Web searches: “This page can’t be displayed.” The message goes on to ask me to check the accuracy of the URL (the one that worked earlier in the day and the same one I’ll use a half-hour later), use my browser to search (that’s what I was doing) or check again later.
I’ve searched acres of pages to find two things: This error message seems pretty common and, none of the fixes that I’ve been able to decipher work. Most assume a technical expertise far beyond mine.
Is this page popping up with some frequency because my router or modem is not up to the task, because Comcast speed is not up to the task or because I’m just jinxed?
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Any helpful hints greatly appreciated.
— Jerry D. Godwin, Seattle
A: There are a number of possible causes.
First, I have found that some ad-blocking software appears to prevent some websites from loading. (And, in fact, some websites decline to load if they detect ad-blocking software and they inform the user of that.)
Second, your Web browser may have been reconfigured — either inadvertently by you or intentionally by malware — to use a proxy server. Since you didn’t indicate which browser you’re using, I can’t give you specific steps for checking. Summon up the browser’s help and search for “proxy server.” Most users don’t employ a proxy server, so if you see the browser is configured for one, try removing it.
If you’re using a Wi-Fi connection, it’s also possible that a drop in signal strength could result in the failure to load a Web page.
Finally, the connection error can also occur, of course, if the website you’re trying to reach is actually offline or too busy.
Q: I have purchased a new hard drive to replace a failed drive. However, I do not have either a boot disc or repair disc.
Is there a way to boot a computer without these? Or should I just use my Windows 3.1 discs and then work my way up to Windows XP? When the drive failed, the computer was running Windows 98.
— John Guberski
A: Wow. You might be able to donate that one to a museum.
Yes, you’ll need to boot from the Windows installation disc.
You can, by the way, access the BIOS without actually booting up the operating system. When the computer is starting up you’ll see a message saying something like, “Press any key to access BIOS.” In more recent computers, when you access the BIOS, you can change where the computer looks for its boot files, so you’d be able, for example, to tell it to boot from a USB thumb drive.
But I suspect your computer is old enough that it may not have USB ports.
Also, I’m sure you know that Windows 98 is no longer supported by Microsoft. That means it’s not being patched to keep it secure, so your computer is going to be very vulnerable if you connect it to the Internet.
Also, that computer won’t be able to run the latest generation of software.
Q: I love my new Kindle tablet. But it has been tricky business finding a tablet anti-virus program that I trust. Lookout is not an option.
— Dev Giguere
A: I’m not clear on why Lookout isn’t an option for you. But there are many other options available.
Just go to Amazon.com and search for Kindle anti-virus, and you’ll find a number of products. I haven’t reviewed any of them, nor have I gotten feedback on this from readers.
But Amazon users who have rated the various anti-virus programs give virtually all of them four out of five stars, so … take your pick.
And, yes, I think it’s a good idea to install anti-virus software on any device connected to the Internet.