IT’S GEEK TO ME: Cookies, cache can cause web forms to cease functioning

Question: Here’s one that I’ve been wrestling with for about 4-6 months now. I sign up for a few sweepstakes/contests sponsored by Food Network, HGTV, etc. I’m using Chrome primarily, but same result in Edge. When I open the email from the company and click on the box (link) for the first (of two) sponsored drawings, I get redirected to the entry page. Good so far. Problem is, there is supposed to be an entry box to input my email that does not appear, so no way to enter. I have entered these sites into the settings for “allowed to send pop-ups and re-directs”. The only way I’ve been able to overcome this is to click on the link in the company’s email and when it goes to the entry page, copy the email address and then open a new incognito window and paste the site’s address in there. Using incognito lets the whole process work properly, but is a bit more work. Any ideas? BTW, when I tried to ask this question on your website, none of these boxes populated, so am sending from my phone.

– Curtis R.

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Answer: Oh, I have ideas, Curtis. I almost always have ideas. In your case, my ideas – and hopefully the answer you your issue – come right out of what you said in your submission. Specifically, the use of Incognito Mode as a way to get this to work for you. Let’s get busy and break this down.

The fact that you had a problem with the “Submit a question” form on the It’s Geek To Me website was the first thing that gave me an idea of what the problem might be. Further ideas were revealed when you said it worked on your phone, and it worked when you were using the browser in Incognito Mode.

Let’s talk about the so-called Incognito Mode for a moment. This is a Google Chrome term, but the same feature is available in Edge, where it’s called InPrivate Browsing. Both of these names would seem to imply that in this mode you have a level of anonymity, and are protected from the Internet knowing things about you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In practice, it protects your browsing session from certain settings on the PC, and it protects your PC from the effects of the current browsing session.

If you understand how much data and other information are saved to your PC as you browse online, you’ll understand the value of this feature. As you browse, a history of each site you visit is logged. As you perform searches, your search history is saved. Websites store cookies on your machine for future access. There’s more, but the point is, in an Incognito Mode session, all this data goes away when you exit the browser window.

The other side of the coin for Incognito Mode is that it protects your browsing session from existing stuff on your computer; stuff that was saved from previous browsing sessions, that doesn’t go away when the session ends, and which can affect the performance of future sessions.

I think the likely reason why web forms don’t work for you under “normal” circumstances but seem to work in Incognito Mode is because of how that mode isolates and protects your browser from all the stuff on your PC. The likelihood is that you have one or more cookies whose contents are somehow stopping the form fields from functioning as they’re supposed to. When the cookies are blocked, things work. By the way, the forms also work on your phone because whatever is blocking them is not present on that device. You might just find that using a different browser on your PC results in the same success.

So, how to fix it? If my theory is correct, clearing your cookies and your browser cache will flush-out the problem, and it should start working. You do this by clicking the “3-dots” button in the upper-right corner of the browser, then clicking “Settings.” In the search bar, enter “Clear browsing data” and select the entry from the search list. Start by clearing out the data on the “Basic” tab, and if that doesn’t work, move on to the “Advanced” tab.

One thing to know: clearing out cookies will remove stored session data that sites place in cookies. This will specifically affect the ones where you check a box that says “Remember Me” meaning that you’ll have to sign in from scratch. Hopefully small price to pay to fix your issue.

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