Back Button Mystery – IE Only


I recently had a complaint from users of a site I support that the browser’s back button did not work when they visited the site. Further research showed that this is only happening on IE8 and IE9 (and possibly earlier versions that I’m too lazy test) and it is indeed a problem. It appears that the issue is an incompatibility between Internet Explorer and Google Adsense and is pretty much a problem across a significant portion of the web as Adsense is used on so many sites (like this one).

The issue isn’t that the back button doesn’t work…it actually is working. The real problem is that IE is adding every loaded advertisement as a new page loaded and updates the history accordingly. This means that every time you press the Back button, you are moving back through IE’s history of the ads loaded on the page. Once you’ve cycled back through every ad that has been served, pressing Back one more time will finally take you back to the previous page. On the site in question, it takes 11 clicks of the back button to go to the previous page. I’m planning on poking around a bit more but it really appears that there is not a known solution to this problem yet.

As serious as this is, I did find it amusing that the AdSense terms of service expressly forbid serving ads on a page where the navigation buttons are not provided, yet it is their code that is rendering these buttons inoperable on Internet Explorer:

Ads are not permitted in any window that is not initiated by a user’s click. Additionally, we do not permit ads to be placed in any window which lacks navigational controls, including back and forward browse buttons, and an editable URL field. AdSense ad code may also not be implemented on webpages where navigational elements have been removed.

In their defense, it does just state that the navigation buttons have to exist…and not that they have to work.


Thanks to a hint from a commenter, here is a possible workaround:

  1. Go to your google account settings
  2. On the account tab, find the last section on the page (named Services)
  3. Click the “Go to Web History” link
  4. The new page will list your recent searches. Click the gear on the upper right and select Settings
  5. The pause button lets you turn search history off.

For this to work, you need to be signed into Google in the browser and cookies must be enabled.

And of course the ultimate workaround is switching to Firefox or Chrome.

, ,


  • John McGillivray

    I was having the same problem on my desk top win7, IE8. My fix was to log into igoogle, click on the small gear (options)top right next to my login name, click on “search settings”, click on “web History link” bottom of page, select no thanks, save your selection.
    Google has been saving your web searches, and creating an extra link in your recent pages. If you check the drop down box next to your “forward and back buttons” after you follow a google search you will see what I mean.

    This worked for me, if you need any help, just drop me a line.


    • Wes

      Yep, helpful, but iGoogle is going away (Nov 2013). Is this an IE or google ad bug?

      • anti govment

        I refuse to use Google(china owns it) and I still have the same problem with Yahoo and IE9. I think the real problem is one of IEs updates in the last couple months. I didn’t have the problem when I loaded IE9 a few months ago.

    • Trionic

      Fantastic idea.  Instead of igoogle, just go to  In the Account tab, at the bottom is a section named Services.  Click “Go to Web History” and you will be able to manage this “feature”.

      • Dave McMullen

        This worked for me!  Thanks, Trionic!!

    • John Buick

      Hah, that seems to work, Thank You John

    • Stili

      thank you john!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • Ed

    That does work. It requires the following steps:

    1. Cookies must be enabled in the browser
    2. With cookies enabled, go to, and sign-in.
    3. Browse with a functional back button!

    Great tip, John!

    • Mummy

      Arghhhhh mine is not working

  • Art

    Thank you for this tip! It was driving me crazy! I would have to right click on the IE back button to find the previous page I wanted. The next previous entry was usually a doubleclick page.

    I had to locate the Web History link by going to a plain Google search page, entering Search History, selecting the Search History Google entry from the response list, then finding the Web History link at the bottom of that page. All ways to the same end.

    I am forever grateful.

  • Sarah

    Hi, yes it is maddening! I tried John’s tip, but when I got to “Web History” at the bottom of the page, I could not find a “no thanks” option. I clicked on the Web History “edit” option, the only option I saw. In there I chose “pause,” then I backed out and clicked “save.” This seems to have done the trick, but if I am missing somethting I hope somebody will kindly let me know. Thank you very much.


  • Stentor7

    It’s motherfucking annoying is what it is. I’ve had so many copies pushed to my history that my relevant pages are pushed off the list, which is fucking bullshit. I keep right-clicking to leapfrog over 10 or 15 pages with the same URL, only to be presented with the same fucking list over and over again. Finally I just have to give up and click to a new link within the website that I was visiting, usually the home page, just to get around this little glitch. Seriously, this is the kind of shit that makes me want to drive up to Mountain View, & string up a few programmers by their twisty bits while I pluck out their pubic hairs one-by-one with a pair of tweezers. Death by a thousand papercuts, that’s what life has become with all these stupid annoyances.

    • Dave Port-Cullis

      I’m using IE7 and have a problem with the back button which sometimes doesn’t work, but if i click on the very edge at about 8 o’clock (the hour hand position) it works fine. I don’t get these other problems mentioned here, but I seldom use google – only for searching if Bing doesn’t cough up something useful. 

      • anti govment

        I never had the problem until just lately and I’ve upgraded all the way to IE9 without this problem.

    • Trionic

      Hmm.  Tell us how you really feel, Stentor!

    • MartinW

      Next time, would you please not use bad language.  You may be angry, but this does not give you the right to foist your unpleasant and downright offensive language on others, who cannot help seeing it.

      • Bobeejohns

        He has a fucking right to be angry.

        • Stentor7

          Fuck Yeah I do!

      • JohnO

        Chuck you, Farley. If ever a situation demanded bad language, it’s this one.

        • JohnO

          And anyway, Martin, who the hell died and made you the curse god?

        • Trionic

          “If ever a situation demanded bad language..”

          I agree this is a pretty annoying issue, but I can think of many situations slightly more deserving of bad language.  

          Switch to Firefox or Chrome, my friend…

          • Mark

            Yet another reason to ditch M$ crappy product. Use Firefox.

            And don’t get me started on retarded windows 8 look.

          • Me.

            This is a google bug, not microsofts, don’t be silly google fanboy :)

          • John Buick

            I’ve used Chrome since it’s infancy and I switched back to IE because as far as I’m concerned Chrome sucks even worse and I’ll put up with the back button issue before I’ll go back to Chrome and their intrusive Bull Shit.

      • david

        define bad language,why shoud we be forced to observe what you define anyway,if you don’t like it don’t read it,then we all win.fuck,shit,piss…and I love you

      • Stentor7

        FUCK YO’ MAMA!!!!!

    • david95

      Based on your rant, I am “asumming” you think it’s all Ed’s fault?

    • Stili

      stentor7 did u ever find a solution? I want to smash my fucking computer to bits!!! please help me

  • A J Dyke

    I totally agree with Stentor :-)  I could hold an electric cow prod to them and tape the button down.  It’s this sort of annoyance that is turning the world off the over-mighty Goooooooooooooogle.

  • FDOberhiem

    If this is what we can expect from a computer Giant Like Microsoft a multi-billion dollar company, then it would be pretty CONSISTETNT with the rest of the crap they put out and produced all these years…

    Then they turn their back on these issue and uses, basically denying it and not supporting it, “It’s not our problem, we’re busy playing video games, wearing our black turtle necks; dockers; driving our Volvos, drinking large amounts of coffee, riding our skate boards (badly) and not bathing for several days… Because we’re Hip… 

    Maybe they’ll break down when it suits them to hire a High School student, pay him the $20 to fix the bad browser issue or bribe his 12 year old little brother with free stale cake and soda to rewrite their bad php browser script.

     UNTIL Then there are other alternatives to IE9… This is disgraceful and amazingly callous handling over this GLARING ISSUE…

    I wonder if everyone at MS uses Firefox or Chrome because of their own error and laziness let everyone figure out for themselves that IE is about as useful as the free complementary coaster you get with your drink at the bar..? 

    When the complaints get filed with the Burger King wrappers and support is chasing their own tail thinking it’s an active x problem or your problem… I’m bascially waisting my time typing all this out, it’s pointless. 

    I fixed my problem with a proxy program, but I shouldn’t have to… This is ridiculous…

  • 88cans

    I think it’s a way for advertisers and others (like Yahoo) to keep you on a page.  The ones that will not ‘back up’ are generally pages that have my attention and want to keep my attention.  I agree with Stentor7, it’s ****ing annoying.

  • LisaV

    I’m glad I found this as I thought perhaps my pc was infected by a virus. This is a problem that only started occuring a few months ago. I click on the back button and it looks like it is taking me back to my search results, but then the website I was on will reload.

    It is bloody annoying (sorry Martin, too crude for you?) and is as almost as annoying as a website that takes AGES to load because of all the bloody irritating ‘interactive’ ads. I’ve often had to start a search all over again because of issues like this.

    I’m a copywriter and so I’m always researching topics. When this happens to you on an hourly basis, day in and day out, making your job even more time consuming then trust me, you do feel like becoming the biggest potty mouth there is because nothing else will get rid of your pent up frustration quite like a damn good swearing bout.

    • Trionic

      When the major browsers introduced popup protection, it made everything so much better – for a time.  But of course, the advertisers just adapted.  Now we have popovers within the page, which are pretty difficult to block.

      (And yes, I confess, I’ve written these for a few people – but I always try to discourage them from going down that path.)

    • John Buick

      And it has been scientifically proven the swearing allows you to handle pain better than not. :)

  • Mark

    Yet another reason to ditch M$ crappy product. Use Firefox.And don’t get me started on retarded windows 8 look.

    • anti govment

      Why are you on this forum if your a firefox pusher?

  • just wondering

    I use Google Chrome and still have the same issue; haven’t tried firefox yet.

  • Bootesey

    This workaround doesn’t seem to be applicable to IE10

  • Jules

    For me, if I click the back button, it will just bring me back to the page I was already reading, instead of the previous page, and it’s getting quite annoying to have to right click and go back to the page I want.

    • No One Important

      That’s what he was explaining.:

      IE is adding every loaded advertisement as a new page loaded and updates the history accordingly. This means that every time you press the Back button, you are moving back through IE’s history of the ads loaded on the page.You think you’re looking at the same page, but the ads aren’t the same. . . .so IE thinks it’s loading the “previous” page because of the ads. . . . .it’s very annoying, and google really has to do something about it. . . or someone will come up with a remedy to block “adsense”. . . .Where there’s a need to stop this annoyance, someone will fill that gap – and if they keep annoying people with this trash, someone will build a mouse trap to get rid of the annoyance. . . .

  • JohnnyD

    Thanks for the fix! Worked like a charm.

  • anti govment

    I refuse to load Google and when it gets loaded by accident I remover it. I still have the backup problem. I did find after several weeks of closing IE that if I right click on the back button it shows all of the add garbage. If I see yahoo on the list I can click on it and go back to it. Some of those add lists are 50 back buttons to get to where I started. It is very annoying when I have to reload IE and then have to scan down to where I was on the yahoo news! I use Yahoo not Google!

  • anti govment

    Why are there so many idiots going off topic about swearing instead of talking about the back button? You cant find answers buried in all of the BS!

  • john

    Just give up on IE and go to Firefox

  • Chronos


    • JanDanBerenstein

      Yeah! And I want a puppy too!

    • Donkey Teeth

      You hit the hammer on the nail head tail fish with this one good chap! You are a True Gentleman, and a Lady!

  • Rick Miller

    The back button problem on my IE 11 turned out to be a add on put there by Dell system detect. I could only see the add on by going to Control Panel and Internet settings and then Manage Add Ones. Disable WMI Class Dell Inc. The related file is syspro.exe.