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[SOLVED] Strange problem / hoping for some insight

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[SOLVED] Strange problem / hoping for some insight

mikebottomley
So I have a user that is having a strange problem with her workstation and I am drawing blanks. The problem is related to text on some web pages. On certain web pages there is text sections that is the same color as the background and essentially disappears while on other sites there is some characters only that are not present at all. E.G. "account" would read as "ccont" (just an example off the top of my head.

This is consistent in Fire Fox, IE, and Chrome and between restarts. This does not occur in any other programs other than internet browsers. I have run multiple virus scanners with no joy, checked her language bar was set properly to English (would affect more than just browsers if it wasn't anyways), and Google is of no help when multiple browsers are effected.

The users is on Windows XP SP3.

Any suggestions or further lines of inquiry that I should follow? I am coming close to a repair install of Windows but would like to have an answer to the problem first.

Thanks for taking the time to help out, Mike
  • +
    0 Votes

    one or more of the font files could have been corrupted. Should be able to
    reinstall the fonts from your Windows media (repair partition, DVD, etc.)

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    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    I'm sorry, I forgot to mention that we had tried that. It is not font related since there are not entire fonts missing on all pages but some words are missing characters and other times the font is just colored to match the background. You can copy and paste the "invisible" text since it is there just matches the background color.

    This only happens in web browsers and not in MS Word or any other application.

    I am now thinking it might be a rootkit but the few scanners that I have run show nothing out of the ordinary.

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    0 Votes
    JimKlallsoo

    Have you tried re-installnig IE Version (X?)

    I would check JAVA, FLASH, ONE Note and possibly Adobe anything that is basically being called/embedded in both browsers. remove the simple one's like Adobe, google toolbar etc as they are easy to re-install

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    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    That was everyone in the offices first thought too; broswer! But, the issue persists through IE, FF, and Chrome. They don't all use the same rendering engine and the Java install between IE/FF and Chrome is different. We have also tried using each in their respective "stripped" mode / "no plugins or extensions mode".

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    0 Votes
    cstafford0

    Ran into something similar but not exactly the same. Try this:

    System Properties --> Advanced -->Performance --> Visual Effects

    Change from Let Windows Choose what's best.... to Adjust for best performance

    Click OK, Go back in and change setting to Adjust for Best Appearance.

    It fixed my problem, maybe yours???

    Chris Stafford

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    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Interesting thought. I have some times scheduled on the workstation this Friday while the user is away. I had planned to do a repair install of XP but this will be first on my list of things to try. Will update with status.

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    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    Try and turn off hardware acceleration for the browsers. The system might need a video driver update or the video card/chip might be dying.
    I am not sure where that option is in chrome and firefox, but in IE, you go to internet options --> advanced tab.
    In the list, it should be the first item, where it says Accelerated graphics, check off "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering" then restart the browser.

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    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Just for some clarification: http://i47.tinypic.com/o00x1i.jpg

    Note how in the top section these are strictly characters missing in some words. If there was a font issue would the entire word not be missing? Also note that in the bottom of the image is part of a website where the white part should contain a heading. It is there but it matches the background.

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    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    That almost looks like web page corruption, are you certain the internet is stable, maybe try a different ISP or different NIC

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    0 Votes
    Charles Bundy

    If you look at the HTML source what does it show? Specifically could something be cached and the cache is corrupt? (e.g. a system temp directory or web accelerator)

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    0 Votes
    jd

    You mention one user's workstation; Are there other workstations in the same environmont with the same machine profile that don't show this behaviour? Then compare. You mention backgound colors and text; this may be therefore graphics properties- graphics card- displayscreen related, If anything, you may wish to rule out HW causes..
    - Suffcient memory available?
    - separate grahics card, or graphics emulated on board? Todays websites can be pretty demanding
    - Iffy memory? I once had a intermittent distorted display problem, replacing the apparent iffy memory strips with higher quality memory saved the problem. If you have a comparable WS nearby, try swapping/(temporary) adding memory with that workstation.

    +
    0 Votes
    Chaz Chance#

    Swap the hard drive with that of a similar computer.

    If the problem moves with the drive, the problem is definately not hardware. This is the simplest, least effort, method to rule out HW.

    I did once have a similar problem which turned out to be the video card, which although it was supposedly compatible with the other HW, was too advanced. Swapping it with a cheap card from a newer computer improved the performance of both computers and solved the problem.

    +
    0 Votes
    Chaz Chance#

    You don't mention trying safe mode.

    It's such an obvious method that one assumes you will have tried that first.

    After that set this computer and another similar one to create a log as it boots, and compare for anomolies.

    +
    0 Votes
    peary

    Have you ruled out the fact it may be a desktop theme causing the issue. I have seen that do some strange things in different software.

    +
    0 Votes
    a.portman

    Go to IE and see what is set at the default font. Tools > Internet Options > General > Fonts. Set for something boring like Times New Roman and make sure it is set to black. Now go to the other browsers and see if use system default is set to on.

    See if that does it.

    The next step would be to download an IE9 installer, uninstall all of the browsers, reinstall all of the factory fonts and then reinstall IE then the others.

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Just to follow up... I tried every suggestion mentioned just for completeness. None of them worked. There must have been some system file somewhere that was not directly font related that was affecting the workstation and causing this issue.

    A 20 minute XP repair install worked out of the box. Typically I never advise running a repair install but this was the only solution that worked. No user files were lost and only had to run about another 20 minutes of system updates to get the user back up and running. Who knew :)

    +
    0 Votes
    Charles Bundy

    Thanks for the followup, glad you got it fixed! Not to be a downer, but have you checked your hard drive and memory? Wondering if there are bit errors somewhere...

    +
    0 Votes
    JimKlallsoo

    Have you tried re-installnig IE Version (X?)

    I would check JAVA, FLASH, ONE Note and possibly Adobe anything that is basically being called/embedded in both browsers. remove the simple one's like Adobe, google toolbar etc as they are easy to re-install

    +
    0 Votes
    cstafford0

    Ran into something similar but not exactly the same. Try this:

    System Properties --> Advanced -->Performance --> Visual Effects

    Change from Let Windows Choose what's best.... to Adjust for best performance

    Click OK, Go back in and change setting to Adjust for Best Appearance.

    It fixed my problem, maybe yours???

    Chris Stafford

    +
    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    Try and turn off hardware acceleration for the browsers. The system might need a video driver update or the video card/chip might be dying.
    I am not sure where that option is in chrome and firefox, but in IE, you go to internet options --> advanced tab.
    In the list, it should be the first item, where it says Accelerated graphics, check off "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering" then restart the browser.

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Just for some clarification: http://i47.tinypic.com/o00x1i.jpg

    Note how in the top section these are strictly characters missing in some words. If there was a font issue would the entire word not be missing? Also note that in the bottom of the image is part of a website where the white part should contain a heading. It is there but it matches the background.

    +
    0 Votes
    jd

    You mention one user's workstation; Are there other workstations in the same environmont with the same machine profile that don't show this behaviour? Then compare. You mention backgound colors and text; this may be therefore graphics properties- graphics card- displayscreen related, If anything, you may wish to rule out HW causes..
    - Suffcient memory available?
    - separate grahics card, or graphics emulated on board? Todays websites can be pretty demanding
    - Iffy memory? I once had a intermittent distorted display problem, replacing the apparent iffy memory strips with higher quality memory saved the problem. If you have a comparable WS nearby, try swapping/(temporary) adding memory with that workstation.

    +
    0 Votes
    Chaz Chance#

    You don't mention trying safe mode.

    It's such an obvious method that one assumes you will have tried that first.

    After that set this computer and another similar one to create a log as it boots, and compare for anomolies.

    +
    0 Votes
    peary

    Have you ruled out the fact it may be a desktop theme causing the issue. I have seen that do some strange things in different software.

    +
    0 Votes
    a.portman

    Go to IE and see what is set at the default font. Tools > Internet Options > General > Fonts. Set for something boring like Times New Roman and make sure it is set to black. Now go to the other browsers and see if use system default is set to on.

    See if that does it.

    The next step would be to download an IE9 installer, uninstall all of the browsers, reinstall all of the factory fonts and then reinstall IE then the others.

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Just to follow up... I tried every suggestion mentioned just for completeness. None of them worked. There must have been some system file somewhere that was not directly font related that was affecting the workstation and causing this issue.

    A 20 minute XP repair install worked out of the box. Typically I never advise running a repair install but this was the only solution that worked. No user files were lost and only had to run about another 20 minutes of system updates to get the user back up and running. Who knew :)

  • +
    0 Votes

    one or more of the font files could have been corrupted. Should be able to
    reinstall the fonts from your Windows media (repair partition, DVD, etc.)

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    I'm sorry, I forgot to mention that we had tried that. It is not font related since there are not entire fonts missing on all pages but some words are missing characters and other times the font is just colored to match the background. You can copy and paste the "invisible" text since it is there just matches the background color.

    This only happens in web browsers and not in MS Word or any other application.

    I am now thinking it might be a rootkit but the few scanners that I have run show nothing out of the ordinary.

    +
    0 Votes
    JimKlallsoo

    Have you tried re-installnig IE Version (X?)

    I would check JAVA, FLASH, ONE Note and possibly Adobe anything that is basically being called/embedded in both browsers. remove the simple one's like Adobe, google toolbar etc as they are easy to re-install

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    That was everyone in the offices first thought too; broswer! But, the issue persists through IE, FF, and Chrome. They don't all use the same rendering engine and the Java install between IE/FF and Chrome is different. We have also tried using each in their respective "stripped" mode / "no plugins or extensions mode".

    +
    0 Votes
    cstafford0

    Ran into something similar but not exactly the same. Try this:

    System Properties --> Advanced -->Performance --> Visual Effects

    Change from Let Windows Choose what's best.... to Adjust for best performance

    Click OK, Go back in and change setting to Adjust for Best Appearance.

    It fixed my problem, maybe yours???

    Chris Stafford

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Interesting thought. I have some times scheduled on the workstation this Friday while the user is away. I had planned to do a repair install of XP but this will be first on my list of things to try. Will update with status.

    +
    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    Try and turn off hardware acceleration for the browsers. The system might need a video driver update or the video card/chip might be dying.
    I am not sure where that option is in chrome and firefox, but in IE, you go to internet options --> advanced tab.
    In the list, it should be the first item, where it says Accelerated graphics, check off "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering" then restart the browser.

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Just for some clarification: http://i47.tinypic.com/o00x1i.jpg

    Note how in the top section these are strictly characters missing in some words. If there was a font issue would the entire word not be missing? Also note that in the bottom of the image is part of a website where the white part should contain a heading. It is there but it matches the background.

    +
    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    That almost looks like web page corruption, are you certain the internet is stable, maybe try a different ISP or different NIC

    +
    0 Votes
    Charles Bundy

    If you look at the HTML source what does it show? Specifically could something be cached and the cache is corrupt? (e.g. a system temp directory or web accelerator)

    +
    0 Votes
    jd

    You mention one user's workstation; Are there other workstations in the same environmont with the same machine profile that don't show this behaviour? Then compare. You mention backgound colors and text; this may be therefore graphics properties- graphics card- displayscreen related, If anything, you may wish to rule out HW causes..
    - Suffcient memory available?
    - separate grahics card, or graphics emulated on board? Todays websites can be pretty demanding
    - Iffy memory? I once had a intermittent distorted display problem, replacing the apparent iffy memory strips with higher quality memory saved the problem. If you have a comparable WS nearby, try swapping/(temporary) adding memory with that workstation.

    +
    0 Votes
    Chaz Chance#

    Swap the hard drive with that of a similar computer.

    If the problem moves with the drive, the problem is definately not hardware. This is the simplest, least effort, method to rule out HW.

    I did once have a similar problem which turned out to be the video card, which although it was supposedly compatible with the other HW, was too advanced. Swapping it with a cheap card from a newer computer improved the performance of both computers and solved the problem.

    +
    0 Votes
    Chaz Chance#

    You don't mention trying safe mode.

    It's such an obvious method that one assumes you will have tried that first.

    After that set this computer and another similar one to create a log as it boots, and compare for anomolies.

    +
    0 Votes
    peary

    Have you ruled out the fact it may be a desktop theme causing the issue. I have seen that do some strange things in different software.

    +
    0 Votes
    a.portman

    Go to IE and see what is set at the default font. Tools > Internet Options > General > Fonts. Set for something boring like Times New Roman and make sure it is set to black. Now go to the other browsers and see if use system default is set to on.

    See if that does it.

    The next step would be to download an IE9 installer, uninstall all of the browsers, reinstall all of the factory fonts and then reinstall IE then the others.

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Just to follow up... I tried every suggestion mentioned just for completeness. None of them worked. There must have been some system file somewhere that was not directly font related that was affecting the workstation and causing this issue.

    A 20 minute XP repair install worked out of the box. Typically I never advise running a repair install but this was the only solution that worked. No user files were lost and only had to run about another 20 minutes of system updates to get the user back up and running. Who knew :)

    +
    0 Votes
    Charles Bundy

    Thanks for the followup, glad you got it fixed! Not to be a downer, but have you checked your hard drive and memory? Wondering if there are bit errors somewhere...

    +
    0 Votes
    JimKlallsoo

    Have you tried re-installnig IE Version (X?)

    I would check JAVA, FLASH, ONE Note and possibly Adobe anything that is basically being called/embedded in both browsers. remove the simple one's like Adobe, google toolbar etc as they are easy to re-install

    +
    0 Votes
    cstafford0

    Ran into something similar but not exactly the same. Try this:

    System Properties --> Advanced -->Performance --> Visual Effects

    Change from Let Windows Choose what's best.... to Adjust for best performance

    Click OK, Go back in and change setting to Adjust for Best Appearance.

    It fixed my problem, maybe yours???

    Chris Stafford

    +
    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    Try and turn off hardware acceleration for the browsers. The system might need a video driver update or the video card/chip might be dying.
    I am not sure where that option is in chrome and firefox, but in IE, you go to internet options --> advanced tab.
    In the list, it should be the first item, where it says Accelerated graphics, check off "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering" then restart the browser.

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Just for some clarification: http://i47.tinypic.com/o00x1i.jpg

    Note how in the top section these are strictly characters missing in some words. If there was a font issue would the entire word not be missing? Also note that in the bottom of the image is part of a website where the white part should contain a heading. It is there but it matches the background.

    +
    0 Votes
    jd

    You mention one user's workstation; Are there other workstations in the same environmont with the same machine profile that don't show this behaviour? Then compare. You mention backgound colors and text; this may be therefore graphics properties- graphics card- displayscreen related, If anything, you may wish to rule out HW causes..
    - Suffcient memory available?
    - separate grahics card, or graphics emulated on board? Todays websites can be pretty demanding
    - Iffy memory? I once had a intermittent distorted display problem, replacing the apparent iffy memory strips with higher quality memory saved the problem. If you have a comparable WS nearby, try swapping/(temporary) adding memory with that workstation.

    +
    0 Votes
    Chaz Chance#

    You don't mention trying safe mode.

    It's such an obvious method that one assumes you will have tried that first.

    After that set this computer and another similar one to create a log as it boots, and compare for anomolies.

    +
    0 Votes
    peary

    Have you ruled out the fact it may be a desktop theme causing the issue. I have seen that do some strange things in different software.

    +
    0 Votes
    a.portman

    Go to IE and see what is set at the default font. Tools > Internet Options > General > Fonts. Set for something boring like Times New Roman and make sure it is set to black. Now go to the other browsers and see if use system default is set to on.

    See if that does it.

    The next step would be to download an IE9 installer, uninstall all of the browsers, reinstall all of the factory fonts and then reinstall IE then the others.

    +
    0 Votes
    mikebottomley

    Just to follow up... I tried every suggestion mentioned just for completeness. None of them worked. There must have been some system file somewhere that was not directly font related that was affecting the workstation and causing this issue.

    A 20 minute XP repair install worked out of the box. Typically I never advise running a repair install but this was the only solution that worked. No user files were lost and only had to run about another 20 minutes of system updates to get the user back up and running. Who knew :)