The subject behavior can happen if the following folders are damaged or contain a damaged file:
Temporary Internet Files
To resolve the problem:
1. Schedule a CHKDSK /F /R on the %SystemRoot% drive.
2. Shutdown and perform the CHKDSK.
3. Boot to an alternate install of Windows NT and copy any cookies you wish to preserve to a temporary location.
4. Remove (delete) the Cookies, History, and Temporary Internet Files folders.
5. Boot your primary install.
6. Run Internet Explorer.
7. On the Internet Options menu, press Settings on the General tab.
8. Move the Amount of disk space to use slider.
9. Once the Cookies folder is recreated, restore any cookies you saved in step 3.