Why Do My Web Pages Keep Timing Out?

By Elizabeth Mott

In the days of dial-up Internet service, visiting websites with complex content took long enough that you could walk away for a cup of coffee while your destination loaded. Broadband connections reduce the wait for online gratification, but when Web pages time out, you can wait through an entire pot of coffee without seeing the information you want. To diagnose these timeouts, start with an understanding of their causes on both ends of an Internet connection.

Complex Scripts

Web programming increasingly relies on scripted components that present dynamic content, respond to visitor input and accommodate special site features. How efficiently your browser processes these scripts depends on whether you're using up-to-date software that can cope with current scripting practices and how well the programmers code their scripts. When the code overwhelms your browser with complex processing requests, the software displays an error message that gives you a choice between waiting for the scripts to finish processing or halting them in their tracks. The same problems that affect JavaScript programming also can affect website pages that rely on browser plug-ins such as Flash or Java.

Overly Large Graphics

Some Web designers use the same graphic files for every instance of an image throughout an entire site. These designers scale their files to match the largest size at which the visuals appear and code their pages to scale down these larger files to smaller display percentages. When your browser downloads content in preparation for serving up a page in a document window, acquiring and then scaling image files takes more time than acquiring actual-size images. Even with pre-scaled images, a complex page with multiple images -- a photographer's website gallery, for example -- can take long enough to download that the page appears to have timed out.

Browser-Related Conditions

Some website pages deliberately time out if you leave them idle for specific amounts of time. Bank and other financial-services websites automatically log you off if you access your account and leave your browser inactive for specific amounts of time. Web browsers also tend to run less efficiently if you leave them running for days at a time without shutting them down and relaunching them. Especially when you load complex, memory-intensive Web content, browsers can grab increasing amounts of memory from your computer without releasing their hold after you close windows and tabs. As these memory leaks worsen, browser performance slows, eventually becoming unusably unresponsive.

Server-Side Problems

Your browser can time out because of problems that interrupt or interfere with the flow of online data. Catastrophic server-side events and network or equipment failures can stop pages from loading in your browser, which eventually stops trying to acquire website information. Your Internet service provider may limit the bandwidth of your connection. Timeout deficiencies also can point to problems with the Domain Name System servers that your Internet service provider uses to interpret website names into their unique underlying numeric addresses. You can change the DNS servers your system uses in Windows' Internet Protocol settings, accessible from the Network and Sharing Center and the adapter settings for your current Internet connection. To change these settings, you need the IP addresses of the DNS servers you decide to use.