Dell Cookies

Normally, I like to think of cookies as yummy items, but not in this case.

I just brought home a brand-new Dell system with Windows 7 Ultimate, and rather than re-install the system from original Microsoft Windows installation media, I decided I would try to stick with the pre-installed operating system.

Mostly everything is okay. I can live with all the Dell branding implanted within Windows, but I noticed that the home page it was sending me to was http://dell.msn.com. It’s pretty much the same thing as the real site except it has the Dell branding, including Dell ads, so I thought I would change it back to Windows’ default home page, which is http://www.msn.com.

Horror!

It redirects back to http://dell.msn.com.

I thought it was cookie-related, so I got into Internet options and deleted cookies and form data and temporary internet items which is pretty typical procedure in resolving web browser problems. I quit Internet Explorer, and went back to http://www.msn.com. Again, I was redirected to http://dell.msn.com

I don’t want to be Microsoft-centric, so I went to my Mac Book Pro and fired up Safari, and I tried going to http://dell.msn.com just to see if this is related only to Windows. It is not! Now, my Macintosh was redirecting me to http://dell.msn.com every time I went to http://www.msn.com! Safari has more control over which cookies you can delete, so I went through the following steps to remove the cookie, and I was happy to find out that it resolved the problem.

First, set the home page to anything other than http://www.msn.com (or http://dell.msn.com).

Open up Safari’s Preferences.

Get into the Privacy settings.

Click Details… to bring up the individual web sites’ cookies and cache.

Highlight msn.com and click Remove.

Of course, this procedure could still delete other important cookies that were saved from msn.com. Firefox has much more fine-tuned capabilities for handling cookies. It allows you to search and destroy very specific cookies without deleting all of them (Internet Explorer), or deleting all of them for one web site (Safari).

The following shows precisely which cookies needs to be deleted to resolve the rediretion to dell.msn.com. Delete mh from msn.com, relaunch the browser, and everything is back to normal.

To delete the specific cookie in Microsoft Windows, you need to do a little searching. Navigate to “%APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies\Low” (yes, type (paste) that exactly as it is into your Explorer address bar) and if you’ve recently visited http://dell.msn.com, sort by date, and one of the first few listed will be the bad cookie to delete. Unfortunately, you cannot determine which one to delete by its name. You must open them up one by one. (Tip – open up a blank Notepad window and drag each cookie’s icon on top of the empty window to open it quickly.) The one you want to delete will begin with “MC1 V=3&GUID=” and will contain the string “mh DELL msn.com”. As with Safari, you will want to make sure you set your home page to something other than http://www.msn.com or http://dell.msn.com before deleting the bad cookie.

If you do not care about deleting all cookies, close Internet Explorer, open Control Panel, click Network and Internet, then click the “Delete browsing history and cookies” link, click the Delete… button, check the box for cookies, then click the Delete button. Then click OK and close the Control Panel window.

Then, after the problem is gone, NEVER go back to http://dell.msn.com!

Commentary

The reason why I wrote this article was because I found so much inaccurate information about this particular problem on the Internet that I decided to write up this procedure. There is NO reason why you should have to edit your registry to resolve this problem, and there is no reason for anyone to bad-mouth Internet Explorer in favor of Firefox. That has nothing to do with this problem, especially since this problem occurs with any web browser that accepts cookies (all of them). But, as I pointed out, Firefox does make it much easier to resolve this problem, so make your own conclusions.