ThinkPad users beware of Internet Explorer hang problems

Back in November, a client gave me a new Lenovo Thinkpad R series machine running Windows XP to setup and configure. I installed Firefox, Service Pack 3, assorted bug fixes and other software.

Somewhere along the line, Internet Explorer 7 broke. It would start up, display "Connecting..." on the first tab, but then hang and never display the home page.

Since I use Firefox and was installing and removing a handful of programs, I wasn't sure exactly what preceded the IE hang problem. The only thing I was sure of was that it broke soon after installing XP Service Pack 3.

The machine was new, so I called Lenovo and was told this was a known issue between IE and SP3, but that they don't support Internet Explorer. I now believe both those statements were untrue.

Back to ground zero, I restored the system to its factory fresh state using the hidden recovery partition on every Thinkpad. Then, I started installing and removing software all over again, but left out service pack 3 this time. At some point, Internet Explorer again started to hang. Just as before, it would start up, display the "Connecting..." message and then hang without ever displaying the home page.

This time, I was forced to research the problem online and learned a very useful trick, you can start IE7 without any add-ons. Depending on the desktop icon used for IE, XP users may be able to do this by right clicking on the desktop icon. All XP users can run this stripped-down version of IE with Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Internet Explorer (no Add-ons).

IE ran fine without any add-ons.

Thus, I started disabling the add-ons one at a time and it turned out that the problematic one was from Lenovo. Something to do with passwords. I didn't keep good notes, because I never expected to blog about it. In the two months after disabling the Lenovo password add-on, IE7 has been running fine. 


Today, it happened again. This time, I was working on a Thinkpad T500 running XP SP3.

The machine was about a month old and Windows Update showed it was only missing a single patch, an update to the .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and .Net framework 3.5 family update (KB951847). This update installed fine, I rebooted and then ... IE7 started hanging.

In fairness, I made other changes to the system that may have caused the problem. For example, I disabled some unecessary services (Remote Registry, SSDP Discovery among them) and installed some software (IrfanView and OpenOffice for example).

As before, IE7 ran fine with no add-ons.

When Internet Explorer is running without add-ons, you can disable add-ons with Tools -> Internet options -> Programs tab ->  Manage add-ons button.

The first add-on that I disabled was the IE Password Manager Helper Class, a BHO (Browser Helper Object) from Lenovo. That's all that was needed to restore Internet Explorer to working order. 

However, there was also a Lenovo password manager "browser extension". Interestingly, both the BHO and the extension run out of the same dll file (tvtpwm_ie_com.dll). For good luck, I disabled the browser extension too.

Both Thinkpads shipped with XP pre-installed, and, in both cases, this was a "downgrade" from a business version of Vista.

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