Among the more annoying features of the Internet, the Meta Refresh is an anachronistic relic of the past that seems to persist only as a tool of black hat website owners. Fortunately, Internet Explorer gives you the option to disable meta refreshing as both a security measure and a means to reduce annoying automatic refreshing of web pages.

What is a Meta Refresh?

A Meta Refresh is nothing more than a brief piece of HTML code that automatically reloads a web page after a specified number of seconds. This code can also redirect your browser to a new webpage. The Meta Refresh code looks like this:

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    This particular example would redirect you to after 5 seconds. Setting the CONTENT variable to zero would make the page automatically refresh without first loading the page.

    Why Disable Meta Refreshing?

    In the old days of the Internet, Meta Refreshes were used to cloak content, refresh advertisements that were programmed to randomly load, and artificially inflate hit counters to make a page appear more popular than it really was.

    Some of the legitimate reasons for using Meta Refreshes include redirecting visitors to the new location of a moved website, sending users to the home page after displaying a “thank you” page for a short time, and forcing the viewer to refresh the page to avoid displaying old content in the user’s cache.

    Although not particularly dangerous, Meta Refreshes are often used by unscrupulous webpage programmers to draw you into a web page using one piece of content and then redirect you to another page with some other content. Referred to as a black hat technique, most of the major search engines are smart enough not to fall for this method of “cloaking” web content.

    There are other consequences of Meta Refreshes that aren’t so benign. Some web content contains viruses and other security risks. Being redirected to a page with malicious content can be dangerous. Although not a major security risk, some web surfers prefer not to be victims of a Meta Refresh and opt to disable them in IE.

    How to Disable Meta Refreshes in IE

    Disabling Meta Refreshes in IE is quite simple. First, click on Tool>Internet Options to open up the Internet Options Window.

    Tools Internet Options in IE8

    Then click on the Security tab and locate the Custom level button. Click on the Custom level button to open up the Security Settings – Internet Zone window.

    Custom Level Security in IE8

    In the Settings pane, scroll down to the Miscellaneous section and locate the Allow META REFRESH option. Under the Allow META REFRESH option, change the option from Enable to Disable. That’s it. You won’t be annoyed by Meta Refreshes in IE again.

    Disable Meta Refresh in IE8

    Keep in mind, however, that there are some legitimate reasons why a webpage programmer may use a Meta Refresh. If your browser isn’t displaying content correctly or a web page is acting funny, you may want to try enabling Meta Refreshing again to see if the problem clears up.

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