Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Hitting the "Stop" button often does not stop everything. I look at why that happens, and some alternatives.

I'm running a Compaq Presario with 1.5 GB, Windows XP, SP3 and MS IE8. This has always been a problem regardless of which version of an operating system or MS IE I have used. The question is this: "Why does MS IE have a stop button if it only works when it wants to?" I want to stop whatever it's doing immediately when I hit the stop button. Thank you.

In this excerpt from Answercast #28 I explore how complex both computers and Internet Explorer have become, and why the stop button doesn't seem to stop as much as it used to.

Getting Internet Explorer to stop.

The problem is that Internet Explorer actually can't stop everything that's happening. Things have gotten amazingly complex over the years.

When browsers were first created, the web was basically a simple download of an HTML file. It was really nothing more than text, maybe a few graphics and then a way to display all of that.

The stop button was introduced so that you could actually stop whatever was going on: be it mid-download, mid-display or whatever. The browser was pretty well architected to be able to stop things when you press that button.

Increasing complexity

Since that time, the web has gotten incredibly complex. Nowadays when you're downloading something from a website, it's way, way, more than just a few pieces of text and images.

One of the big things these days are things like small java script programs. These enable what you and I consider to be a rich user experience; everything from Gmail to god only knows what else. It's all based on the software that's actually running in the browser on your machine.

Add-ons can slow a computer

On top of that we have buckets of add-ons that keep getting added to the browser. The browser gives some control to those add-ons to process things while the page is being downloaded.

Finally, we've got anti-malware tools inserting themselves into the entire process as well: trying to look at what's going on, and trying to make sure that you're not downloading something malicious... and warning you if you do.

The problem is very, very simple: some of those things take time... and many if not most of those kinds of things are not designed to be stopped. They assume that once they begin they can finish what they're doing. If they take time, Internet Explorer may have an opportunity to ask them to stop but there's no way to force things to stop.

  • Forcing a stop boils down to a crash.

So all Internet Explorer can really do is ask these other operations, "Would you please stop as soon as you can".

Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

The stop button is limited

So, the bottom line is that the stop button is still there. It still has relevance. It still stops many things, mostly on the more basic and simple web pages.

In reality, there's so much more going on these days that can affect what Internet Explorer has to do, that the stop button (as you say), doesn't always work.

It's not up to MS IE. It's not Internet Explorer deciding that it does or doesn't want to stop. It's trying; it's doing its best to respond to your request. It's just that not everything is in its control anymore.

Article C5490 - June 19, 2012 « »

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?

Ray Norton
June 22, 2012 1:32 PM

Many times, I find it is much faster to just close IE and start over. Seems to me IE could do that without my input after I hit the stop button and it does not work.

October 3, 2012 9:15 AM

Thats funny you say it is not up to MS to make the stop button work as users would expect- Firefox stop button seems to do exactly what you would expect a "stop" button to do.

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