Re-start Explorer.exe When your Taskbar and Desktop Icons are Missing

Have you ever started your computer to find your taskbar missing along with all your desktop shortcut icons and your start menu? You can maybe see your desktop color but the icons are not there. Even your desktop seems to have lost its wallpaper. The computer seems to be running fine. Or maybe you start your computer and then get a message saying that “explorer.exe has to shutdown”. You have got to be joking?

Believe it or not this is a common troubleshooting problem that can occur at any time without warning. The Windows application, Explorer.exe is responsible for supplying the taskbar and the desktop icons so the easiest way to get them back is to restart Explorer.exe.

Taskbar missing – How to start Explorer.exe manually?

1. Press CTRL-Alt-Del on your keyboard at the same time to bring up Task Manager.

2. Go to the Applications tab.

3. Press on the new task button. See the screen shot below.

4. A create task dialog box will appear.

5. Type in explorer.exe into the box.

6. Press OK.

Having your taskbar missing can be caused by a number of things but I will try to mention a few more:

Taskbar missing after booting or starting the computer:

First thing I would do is start explorer.exe as shown in the above tutorial.  After this I would insert the windows operating disc and try to fix the problem with that.

You can use your Windows XP disc to possibly fix this.

  1. Put your windows CD into the cd rom drive.
  2. Go to the start menu. Choose run. Or press the WINKEY and R on the keyboard.
  3. Type in sfc /scannow

An error message saying”Windows Explorer needs to shut down”

How annoying is this error message. You have just started your computer and now it wants to shut down the main application that runs the whole thing. If you click ok then everything on your desktop will disappear and explorer.exe will be shut down, therefore resulting in a taskbar missing along with the desktop icons and the start menu. If you leave the message there you might be able to access the Internet and and some parts of your computer, but most things will not work. You will not be able to click on shortcut icons or do much at all.The problem needs to be fixed now. Having the Windows taskbar missing can make it extremely hard to navigate around your computer to find your files.

There could be many issues that can cause this problem, however here is a band aid fix that’s seems to do the job. We are going to make a copy of the explorer.exe application file and rename it what you want, and then tell the registry to use this file instead of the original. As we are going to edit the registry you must proceed at your own risk.

1. Go to the start menu and choose computer from the menu.

2. Double click on C: drive and then find the Windows folder.

3. Find explorer.exe. See the screen shot below.

explorer.exe application location

4. Right click on the explorer.exe file and choose copy from the menu. See the screen shot below.

restart explorer.exe

5. Paste a copy of the file back into the same folder.You will need to click in a blank space in the folder. Right click and then choose paste.

error no taskbar or desktop icons

6. It will ask you to allow this to happen (admin) and then it will make a copy of the file for you. It will not delete the original file.

7. Now rename the file by right clicking on it and choosing rename. Just say I renamed my file mitz.exe

Now we want to tell the registry to go to mitz.exe instead of explorer.exe:

1. Press the Windows key and R on your keyboard to bring up the run box.

2. Type regedit in the Run box and click OK.

3. We need to find this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrent VersionWinlogon

4. When you have found it, click on the folder, then in the right column there will be some entries

5. Double click on the word Shell.

explorer.exe registry

6. In there where it says explorer.exe, replace it with your new filename..In my case it is mitz.exe

7. Restart your computer.

Now when you start your computer it will not be looking for explorer.exe. It will open the new file that you named.

Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Taskbar missing after removing a virus from my computer

When a virus attack your computer they especially like to mess with the explorer.exe properties and registry keys as this is one of the main applications on a Windows computer.

1. Press the WINKEY and R on the keyboard to bring up the run box.
2. Type regedit in the Run box and click OK.
4. Browse for the this registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionImage File Execution options

See this article on How to search the registry and find what you want quick.

registry explorer

5. Open that folder by clicking on the arrow next to it .  If you see any subkeys named explorer.exe and iexplorer.exe you should delete them. They should not be in the Image File Execution Options key. If you do not find them then this is not the cause of your  problem.
6. Close the Registry Editor.
7. Restart your computer.

If you got rid of the viruses thoroughly and you have deleted these unwanted registry keys then your desktop and icons should be back on your next start up. If you still have problem then you might need to install virus removal software on your computer to do extra virus scanning.

Notes: Taskbar missing – another thing to try is checking your Quarantine folder in your virus protection program. Explorer.exe has been known to be exiled to there.

Quick tips

  • Try running in cmd:sfc/scannow as shown above.
  • Run the Microsoft update which will might fix the issue.
  • Go to the windows explorer icon and click run as administrator.
  • Sometimes your desktop crashes because you have an active desktop enabled. (usually Windows XP)

When you are faced with the problem of your taskbar missing, along with all other desktop icons and the start menu, do not panic as you can at least still get into your computer.


  1. Rhonda says

    I ran web root on my computer for viruses and when it was done, I restarted my computer and there was no start menu or icons on the desk top. I have tried to to restore the computer it didn’t work, I tried eplore.exe in new task in the task manager. I have the files in there and programs according to the desk top browse area. I removed web root in add and remove programs. Still can’t get it. It is an old computer Dell and it has xp windows. ANY ADVICE?? I am looking for my windows cd but so far I haven’t found it.

  2. Robert Smalley says

    I am trying to create a desktop shortcut to restart the COMPUTER !! Using Windows 98 OS….
    The ‘shutdown-s -t 0 ‘ and shutdown -r -t 0 ‘, works well in XP and upwards to win7
    However in win98, ‘restart’ using the same procedure does not seem to work…
    Please advise

  3. sonu says

    My Inernet explorer do not work and no search web sites, please i do how repear its error.
    Vijender Singh

    • says

      Hi there
      Install another internet browser like Google chrome or firefox…Until IE sorts itself out…Install new Windows updates…give me more details if you would like help to fix it.

  4. Robert Smalley says

    I have tried to make a ‘shutdown’ shortcut on my spare computer, which is running Windows 2000…
    I have Win7, and Vista, in a dual boot on my good computer, and the shortcuts work fine, as well as on XP………..
    When I try to make a shortcut on Win 2000, I get an error message ” cannot find shutdown.exe”.. I have run a ‘find file’ but no result as in ‘No file exists”

    Any ideas ??