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December 23, 2012 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Why does my computer have so much trouble connecting to Amazon, and no other website? Difficulty level: reformatting the OS drive didn't work.

When I try to navigate to Amazon.com on my Windows PC, nine times out of ten I get either a completely blank screen or a page that loads partway and then ends, as if I'd hit the "stop" button before it could finish. Sometimes I have to hit "refresh" dozens of times before a page will load properly. This only happens on Amazon, and not on all of its domains - just Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.uk that I've found. Servers hosted on AWS are unaffected.

This is just my computer - it doesn't happen to any of the other machines on my network. But changing the browser doesn't fix it; the problem happens in Firefox, Chrome and IE10. It started last year, while I was running Windows Vista, and even after I formatted the OS drive to install Windows 7 fresh, the site still doesn't want to load. I'm not sure what else I can do short of remodeling the computer with a hammer.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish to Computers & Internet (21 answers total)
Try contacting Amazon customer service using this link. It should be easier to load since it has very little content and no ads.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:58 PM on December 23, 2012

You could try Firebug and see what request is hanging. Or you could try replacing/adding another network card in your PC.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:35 PM on December 23, 2012

The OS drive? Does that mean you have a not OS drive? Try removing that. Also try an Ubuntu Live CD and see if that triggers the bug.
posted by pwnguin at 5:35 PM on December 23, 2012

Try switching your DNS servers to Google and see if the problem goes away. I've noticed problems loading Amazon pages (though actually the problem isn't specific to them) when ISPs don't handle DNS queries properly, which causes problems with sites that use CDNs, which rely on accurate and fresh DNS records to work correctly.
posted by odinsdream at 6:34 PM on December 23, 2012

Seconding the DNS servers. I no longer have that problem.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:28 PM on December 23, 2012

Run a traceroute from your machine to amazon.com. (tracert www.amazon.com > test.txt, to output to a text file.) Then do the same from other machines on your network. Compare.
posted by xyzzy at 5:11 AM on December 24, 2012

Changing DNS servers did nothing.

The traceroute gets seven steps in, to a Qwest server, and then shows "request timed out" out over and over for all further steps. Is there any way to see what server it's trying to connect to when it times out?

Re: Firebug, how do I use it to view the results of individual requests?

(I forgot to mention, I have also switched network cards, just in the course of wearing out and replacing components).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:26 AM on December 24, 2012

The server it's failing to reach is listed on the same line as the error. Do other machines on your network display different results for the same traceroute command?
posted by odinsdream at 6:38 AM on December 24, 2012

It's not listed. The line reads, in its entirety, "8 * * * Request Timed Out."

But I get the same result when I run tracert on the laptop, and it doesn't have a problem loading the actual site, so this may be a red herring.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:43 AM on December 24, 2012

Browsers aggressively cache DNS results, so it may take some time for an OS level DNS change to have an effect. Check your browser instructions for clearing DNS cache.
posted by odinsdream at 6:52 AM on December 24, 2012

Try using the -d flag to prevent resolution of names for each hop, see if you still get just an 8 for that line.
posted by odinsdream at 6:57 AM on December 24, 2012

Still nothing. "Request Timed Out" is displayed in the field that would otherwise be used for the IP address.

I flushed the DNS cache right after changing the setting.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:04 AM on December 24, 2012

I am wondering if it can be an issue with a damaged hosts file.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 8:04 AM on December 24, 2012

Do you use ad blocking software on your PC? Have you changed your TCP Window size or other network settings for gaming?

The tracert command with the stars is a red herring. Amazon doesn't appear to allow that type of traffic (ICMP) to their servers.

Edit - check for malware on that machine. And as note above, the Ubuntu Live CD would eliminate the hardware as the source of the problem without affecting your current install at all.
posted by cnc at 11:02 AM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry. Christmas happened, so I didn't get back to this until now.

Since results are the same on all the machines on your network, I agree that it's a red herring. The tracert test was to try to eliminate the possibility of a problem with your router/modem. (I had a similar problem with a service hosted on the AWS farm, but it affected all of the devices on my network, and it turned out to be a broken routing table at Amazon.)

Is the computer with the problem wired and other other (working) computers on the network wireless? Or vice versa?

If the desktop is connected via ethernet, try connecting the ethernet to your laptop, reboot, and load amazon.
posted by xyzzy at 10:18 PM on December 26, 2012

I've gone from connecting with a wireless card to connecting via ethernet to connecting with a completely different wireless card, with no change.

Waiting on a response from Amazon CS.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:35 AM on December 27, 2012

Have you tried a Linux LiveCD yet?
posted by odinsdream at 7:12 AM on December 27, 2012

Not yet. I have no blank CDs, and keep forgetting to buy any when I'm out.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:37 AM on December 27, 2012

Eeenteresting. Have you looked at \Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts? Is it possible to connect that computer to a different network, either through wi-fi hijacking or literally dragging the machine to a friend's house?
posted by xyzzy at 10:51 AM on December 27, 2012

If you can spare a blank USB thumb drive, those work just as well.
posted by pwnguin at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2012

Disable your HOSTS file on the windows machine and try again. My money is on the hosts file being corrupted. Windows looks at a HOSTS file rather than DNS preferentially. That means that if the IP is screwed in the hosts file a windows machine will have trouble finding it and it will time out. As long as you are using that hosts file you can change DNS servers and networks all you want and it won't work.


Enable/disable hosts

posted by The Violet Cypher at 12:03 PM on January 2, 2013

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