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Thread: Upon login to Windows, explorer.exe does not start up. No taskbar, no icons

  1. #1
    cjd72 is offline New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Default Upon login to Windows, explorer.exe does not start up. No taskbar, no icons

    Hello everyone,

    I'm new here but I have used this site a hundred times over for many of my ridiculous windows problems. This time, however, I have exhausted every single fix I have found on the internet and nothing has worked. I will try to explain my problem the best I can and then I will tell you everything I have tried to fix it and hopefully somebody will know something I do not and be able to help me out!

    Problem: Upon login to windows explorer.exe does not start up. No taskbar, no icons, and no ctrl+alt+del. I can still right click so I have tried opening a folder and navigating to explorer.exe manually but that doesn't work. I can not run any programs other than the file explorer, I click on them and they just do nothing.
    When I boot into safe mode the exact same problem persists... which means something I installed or changed messed up windows. I can troubleshoot by booting into safemode with cmd, and from there I can run explorer.exe and everything magically becomes okay, but I still have not been able to fix the problem.

    So. My first build included a crappy old motherboard I had lying around so when the problem persisted after a wipe and clean windows reinstall I blamed the hardware. The problem would occur immediately when I installed my graphics card driver, every time, uninstalling the driver would make the problem go away. I bought a snazzy new motherboard and tried it again. This time everything worked for a while, I installed the graphics driver and the system ran perfectly fine for a few days, but of course you cant get rid of the devil that easily.. I'm running a GTX 960 and I am running version 353.3 of the nvidia drivers for it. When I uninstall the graphics driver (and ONLY the graphics driver, all other nvidia software is fine) explorer.exe will launch on login. I have run this experiment several times and with the new build it DOES NOT crash as soon as I install the driver, but once it does start to mess up, uninstalling it fixes the problem. I do not know why the graphics driver is causing this problem, especially because the problem persists in safemode. I have done a fresh install of windows and ONLY installed the BARE essentials (LAN drivers, motherboard drivers, and graphics drivers) and the problem still happens.

    Attempted Solutions:

    - checked windows registry to ensure explorer.exe was the 'shell' program in 'winlogon'
    - tried using ShellExView and I saw nothing but basic windows programs so I did not disable anything
    - I have disabled all startup programs that are not necessary
    - checked all services and ensured the necessary ones are set to 'automatic'
    - I have run malware bytes and avast and both found nothing
    - tried disabling DEP, did nothing
    - tried running sfc, no problems
    - tried rolling back video drivers
    - tried doing a system restore and system repair many times, nothing happens
    - I have reinstalled windows many times, wiped my drive completely and started from scratch, if the problem does not start immediately it will within a day or two

    I have reached the limits of my know-how and I am completely out of solutions. Anything you guys can think of will help.

  2. #2
    RolandJS's Avatar
    RolandJS is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2014


    Something is being re-installed after you've re-installed Windows is wrecking your explorer.exe; or, some kind of operation[s], action[s], is[are] being done within each or enough Windows sessions to wreck your explorer.exe. Can you supply a quick-list of what is installed? Maybe we can spot a program or utility that is often problematic to some [but not all] users.'s Windows Repair (All in One), run within Safe Mode with Networking, accepting defaults & items 26 & 27 might help.
    When Windows is behaving properly -- do you make an OS image onto an external media via Macrium Reflect, Acronis True Image, or something similar?
    Last edited by RolandJS; 13th July 2015 at 10:55.

  3. #3
    Matrix's Avatar
    Matrix is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2009


    Did you try all steps mentioned here?
    Windows explorer.exe does not start at startup

  4. #4
    Arun Kumar's Avatar
    Arun Kumar is offline MVP Alumni
    Join Date
    Aug 2012


    I too had problems with graphics drivers. The problem was solved by updating the driver. Give it a try. See if an updated driver is available for your graphics card and use it.
    Or if it is Intel chipset, download "infinst_autol.exe" and run it if possible (i.e. while the Windows Explorer is still working). This file tells Windows where to look for drivers. Then open device manager to update the device manager. Worked for me.

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