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Cannot access websites, shut down, close windows or diagnose problems.

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Hello, please help.

I have a Gateway laptop computer that I have connected to a wired modem from home. Well right now I can access the internet through firefox but for the last two days when I would try to start up, the icon in the lower right would indicate there was no internet connection and the computer would endlessly try to open either internet explorer or firefox and either nothing would ever happen (page would never finish loading) or the cannot connect to internet message would come up. If I tried clicking on "diagnose connection problems" the little bar would move left to right and no message identifying potential problems would ever appear. I noticed last night that although it indicated no connection to the internet, my little picture showed up on the windows messenger log in page which auto-pops up during power on. Since the picture shouldn't appear unless online I tried signing in and it worked and even brought up the little windows live page that shows your email messages but trying to click on one produced the same results noted above... also if I tried to shut down or restart the computer it would just say "shutting down" forever but never would and I'd eventually have to hold the button down until it powered off which I know isn't good right?

Well today it seems to be working... at least firefox is... the internet explorer windows I've tried to open are blank and there is no response to my repeated efforts to close them not even that little box that usually says the program is not responding and asks if you want to wait longer or just close it now, so I can only minimize those windows.

So what is wrong with my computer? Should I just use firefox now since that is what is working now? To be honest I'm afraid to shut it down (or try to) since it just started working again this morning and have had it hibernating all day. I have a ton of stuff that I MUST do online in the next few days (about 8 hours per day or so worth of work) and I'm not going to have any real money to fix or buy a new computer for at least a couple of weeks.

Also what's the difference between hibernating and shutting down? I've heard you should hibernate rather than shutting down/restarting multiple times a day right? So what's the longest you should hibernate? Is there a maximum amount of time the computer should be on per 24 hours even if hibernating (on mine the screen goes blank but after a little while longer it can't be reactivated simply by striking a key but you have to use the power button but it saves all the windows etc)? Even though I don't know much about computers I have to use it for many hours a day for "work" (selling on ebay) and other stuff but I can always take breaks whenever I want.

The computer did get knocked off the desk around the time this all started happening but it fell onto some stuff piled next to it and I didn't think it hit anything too hard but maybe that's why it was/is acting up? Or maybe I just use it too much and don't let it rest enough? Please advise!

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