There are times when Windows Explorer dies on you and takes with it, the Windows’ desktop and toolbar, together with the system notification area (aka system tray). Or Windows become annoyingly SLOW and something appears to be HOGGING your processor. Upon checking the Task Manager, you might see “Explorer (Not Responding)”, which can go on forever if you decide to wait for it to respond.
You can restart your computer at this point if you choose to, and if you do so, everything will go back to normal.
But why restart, when there is a simpler way? 😉
How To Kill Windows Explorer (Windows 7/Vista/XP):
Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc (-Ctrl-Alt-Del no longer brings up the Task Manager in Windows 7, it brings up an interim screen) to bring up the Task Manager and click on the Processes tab, then find all instances of explorer.exe and press “End Process” to kill them.
After killing Windows Explorer, you will notice that the taskbar has disappeared, and you will no longer have any access to the Start Menu. The only access you have is the Task Manager itself.
Note: If after you kill Windows Explorer, you get something like “Dr Watson (Not Responding)”, kill it as well.
How To Restart Windows Explorer (Windows 7/Vista/XP):
Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc (/Ctrl-Alt-Del) to bring up the Windows Task Manager, then from the menu, click on File > New Task (Run …), type in “explorer” and the Windows taskbar should regenerate itself before your eyes. You will now have Start Menu access and everything is back to normal.
You can easily practise this now by following the steps above to kill Windows Explorer, then restart it again. As a precaution, save your work before doing this but generally Windows is more resilient to explorer crashes these days compared to the days of Windows 95, so the crash itself should not take down other running applications.
Disclaimer: In a less than perfect Windows installation, killing Windows Explorer may cause system instability, and causes other applications to crash. So, try this on your system if you have a stable system that you have confidence in. You are on your own in this, be warned. 😉
Read the disclaimer above, cross your fingers, and do this at least once as HOMEWORK, so that you can remember how to apply this when the real thing happens. Repeat as many times as necessary – especially if you are a slow learner. 😉