Thursday, March 01, 2007

Possible fix: IE7 won't show Favicon

I ran into a problem this morning where my install of Internet Explorer 7 was refusing to show the new favicon that I had dropped into the root directory of the website on my local IIS 5 installation for web pages hosted on the server. (Previously, the site had been running without any favicon.)

(A "favicon" is the icon image that gets displayed in the browser's address bar and as the bookmark icon, among other places, for websites that are designed to take advantage of that functionality. For example, the University of Michigan site uses a maize-and-blue "M" icon as the favicon. Note that in IE6, you need to bookmark a site and load that site back from the bookmark before the favicon will display in the address bar.)

Although all the reading I had done suggested that IE7 has full support for favicons, the new icon wasn't being displayed for any of the pages on my site; IE7 would instead just show the generic "IE document" icon. The icon did display correctly in Firefox, and also in another copy of IE on a different machine. Looking at the web server's IIS log, I could see that IE7 wasn't even attempting to request the favicon.ico file from the server.

I tried some simple workarounds to try and trigger IE7 to request the new icon, such as clearing IE's temporary internet files and re-bookmarking the web site, but didn't have any luck. And I could see that my IE7's support for favicons wasn't totally broken, as other sites in my bookmarks (favorites) list did still correctly display their favicons.

After spending a fair amount of time researching the problem across various websites and newsgroup postings, I finally came across a suggested workaround/solution at Wickham's XHTML & CSS tutorial (thanks Wickham!) that ended up fixing the problem for me. The workaround was to clear my IE7 browsing history. (Ctrl+H to bring up the History panel, then select each of the top-level items and delete them with the Delete key).

After clearing my IE history and closing and reopening the browser window, the favicon finally did display properly.

I'm unable to reproduce the issue now; my copy of IE7 is now correctly immediately picking up changes when I remove the favicon.ico file or drop a different favicon.ico into place, so I can't be certain that deleting the IE7 history (which admittedly seems like an odd solution) was what actually fixed the problem. Still, I'm posting this here in hopes that the workaround of clearing IE7's browsing history might be helpful to anyone else who is having a similar problem getting IE7 to properly show a particular website's favicon.

Update 3/7/2007: Jeff Davis ("jeffdav") from the Microsoft Internet Explorer team has posted to his blog a troubleshooting guide for favicons in IE7. It actually does mention clearing browsing history as a possible fix for favicons not showing up as expected. Go check it out if you're having trouble with favicons in IE7! (Thanks for the info, Jeff!)

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