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"Error on page" simply indicates that the HTML or other code on a web page is incorrect. Unfortunately, there are several possible causes.

On some websites, occasionally including my online bank sites, the IRS, etc. etc., I sometimes get the message "Error on page," and the links don't work. What causes this message to appear and is there anything I can do to avoid it? I assume that the problem is with the site and not my computer, which makes me think I can't do much, but I thought I'd ask. It's very inconvenient. I use Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8.

Taken quite literally, "Error on page" means exactly that: there's an error of some sort on the web page that is being displayed in your browser.

There are three common reasons why this message can appear.

With two, you can try to do something about, but with the other, you can't.

Reason One: It's The Website's Fault

Web pages are written in what boils down to one or more programming languages.†

HTML - HyperText Markup Language - is the fundamental language used to code web pages. It defines things like paragraphs, bold, italics and other characteristics of page layout.

Javascript, while separate and distinct from HTML, is another programming language that is often used within web pages to add interactive functionality. If you've used Google Docs, for example, you've seen a word processor or a spreadsheet program implemented primarily in Javascript.

Java, which is unrelated to Javascript, is yet another programming language that can be used on web pages to create even richer applications that are available and run simply by visiting a web page.

Like any programming language, it's possible for the humans writing the programs or pages to make mistakes.

That's one source of "Error on page". Typically, the problem is in Javascript and the "Error on page" may indicate that there's a quite literally an error that's been left in by the web page designer or author.

If that's the case, there's nothing that you can do, other than let the website owner know.

Reason Two: Incomplete Downloads

This is probably the more common reason for "Error on page".

When you view a web page, say this one on Ask Leo!, your browser downloads the file that "is" the web page (an .html file, in this page's case). Based on what that page contains, your browser may then also download additional files, such as image files (like my smiling face, up at the top, for example), Javascript files (like the one I use to prevent excessive comment spam down below), and perhaps more. Advertising is also typically displayed, using externally downloaded Javascript files.

If a file is only partly downloaded, say because the connection to the web server breaks mid-stream, or if not all of the files required to display the page are successfully retrieved and downloaded, the resulting collection of HTML, Javascript and whatever else might be syntactically incorrect.

That's just a fancy way to say "broken".

If not all of the files required or referenced by a web page are completely downloaded, it's often the case that "Error on page" is the result.

This is one that you can sometimes resolve yourself.

Hit Refresh. This is often the F5 key in your browser.

The browser will then attempt to re-download all of the files required by the current page.

If it still fails, you might also try clearing your browser cache as sometimes files can get "stuck" in your cache, even broken files that can result in "Error on page". After doing so, hit Refresh and see if the problem resolves itself.

Reason Three: Browser Add-ons

Many browser add-ons will attempt to modify the code that's displayed when you view a web page. For example, when you install Skype, it installs a small add-on in some browsers that examines the web page that you're looking at and turns anything that looks like a phone number into a clickable link to make a Skype phone call on-the-fly.

I've not had an error with Skype's add-on, but I simply use it as a common and simple example.

Other add-ons can cause problems at times. By inserting something into the code, add-ons can sometimes compromise a web page and make it syntactically incorrect.

You remember: that means broken.

And "Error on page" can be the result.

This is easy to test for. If, like the previous exercise, reloading the web page didn't clear up the error, try disabling all add-ons or running without add-ons and seeing if the problem goes away. If it does, re-enable the add-ons until the problem reappears, and then you'll know who the culprit is.

† I know that some disagree with me, but fundamentally, I consider HTML to be a programming language in its own right.

Article C4792 - April 15, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

April 16, 2011 8:16 AM

I'd just like to add one more possible cause, which is probably quite uncommon. If you try to operate on an element in the web page using javascript in the header (or generally before the element in the code), this script is executed before the element is loaded, so it will give an error about a reference to an undefined element. I used Chrome to find this, I'm not sure if it also occurs in other browsers.
The solution would be to execute the code only when you know the page is fully loaded, i.e. using an onload event in the body tag.

That falls into the general catagory of "the page was improperly coded" as mentioned in the article. This is just one of thousands of ways the page could be coded improperly.

Jim de Graff
April 19, 2011 6:18 AM

One more thing to try when you get a page with errors is to load the same page in a different browser. I have noticed several non Microsoft sites that lose some functionality unless rendered in Internet Explorer (there are no actual error messages but some operations just do not work) and Microsoft sites that throw errors in browsers other than IE (I suspect but cannot prove that this is deliberate).

John E Reese
April 19, 2011 11:22 AM

Other reason for error on page is a host file. I use Mike Burgess's host file to block ads, billing sites, and other bad web pages. Then I get errors on web page I know my Host file is working. It is nice block for your computers for most end users do not know about feature.

Harry Harper
April 19, 2011 3:20 PM

What I don't understand is why a page being viewed on IE might give the "error on page" message with the continue running scirpts - yes or no - button but the exact same page on Chrome or Firefox does not. Drives me absolute nuts. So much so, I avoid IE altogether unless something's not right on a site I open in C or F.

April 21, 2011 3:03 PM

Response/addition to Jim de Graff:
I use the IE Tab in Firefox 4 for sites that are otherwise hard to work with. It works great. Also, since installing FF4 (w/ excellent results), Microsoft is sending " important updates to install" IE9 (still in beta) 24/7, with relentless pursuit. FF4 has increased search/download dramatically-I think Microsoft is aware of this simplicity and speed which have seem to elude them. I'm just saying....

IE9 is no longer in Beta. It's been release.

Wendy Forsyth
April 30, 2011 12:51 AM

Response to Harry Harper
Tried with IE clearing browser history/cache, even disabled all add-ons but STILL kept getting broken, unreliable websites and exclamtion/error on all website pages. But using Mozilla the 'error on page' doesn't occur. I don't understand this. I've always used IE and until recently had no issues with any websites- until one site only caused issues but responded well to Mozilla. Now, SINCE loading Mozilla, when I use IE instead it's really unhappy. Great mystery......

Eric Brightwell
June 3, 2011 3:58 AM

I have found that if you use a browser with an effective Ad Blocker, such as Flashpeak Slimbrowser, then this stops attempts at downloading files you do not need into the page, and there is less risk of the "error" problem.

April 13, 2012 8:58 AM

Thanks! Your answer was wonderful. I had already discovered that hitting refresh then allowed me to display web pages, but didn't know why. And I have now quit SKYPE after logging on, and will open it only if I need it.

Simon W
June 26, 2012 11:46 PM

Do you mean "add-ons can sometimes comprise a web page and make it syntactically incorrect.", or "add-ons can sometimes compromise a web page and make it syntactically incorrect."?

Mark J
June 27, 2012 3:31 AM

Thanks, it's fixed now.

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