Windows Explorer Won’t Load – Advanced Solution

In a previous post, I described how I was able to solve my Windows Explorer problem. I didn’t go into great detail on how I managed to find the solution, so I thought I would expand on that and describe steps you can take.

First, let me say that not having Windows Explorer running is not the end of the world. Your computer can still function, as Windows Explorer is just the Graphic User Interface (GUI). Of course, you would like to get it back (preferably without reinstalling Windows), so I’m hoping this post can help. Keep in mind that some of the steps described below can be very advanced, but may be needed to troubleshoot the problem.

List of Needed Software

Before we begin, we will need the following tools installed:

  • Anti-virus software. Try one of these if you don’t have any installed:
  • Anti-spyware software. Download and install the following two applications:

  • Filemon. We will use this to see what files Windows Explorer is accessing.
  • Regmon. Similar to Filemon, except it will show the registry keys.

As we research the problem, there may be more tools to install, however, this is a good start.

Installing the Software

The first step to determining the problem is to download and install the tools. If you are not on the machine with the Windows Explorer problem, please switch to that machine, turn it on and log in.

Perform the following steps:

  1. Press CTRL+ALT+DELETE to display the Task Manager.
  2. Click File->New Task (Run…) to display the Run dialog.

    Note: As an alternative to the above steps you could type WINDOWS KEY+R. From this point on, when you need to run an application, use this method.

  3. In the Run dialog enter iexplore.exe, and then click OK. This will open Internet Explorer.
  4. Navigate back to this page, and download the necessary software by following the above links.
  5. Install each software application on you machine. Remember where you installed the software since you will need to manually run each application.

Once the software has completed, continue on to the next section.

Checking for Viruses and Spyware

Most likely the cause of your Windows Explorer problem is a virus or spyware. The first thing that we will do is to check the machine for both.

  1. First execute you anti-virus software. Take any action to remove any viruses on the computer.
  2. Next, run the Ad-Aware software to find and remove any spyware.
  3. After Ad-Aware has run, execute Spybot to also search for spyware. Take the necessary action to delete any spyware.
  4. Reboot you computer and see if Windows Explorer loads and if it doesn’t then continue on to the next section.

The above tools may not have found any viruses or spyware, but there still may be some existing on your computer. When my Windows explorer failed to load, I ran both the anti-virus and anti-spyware applications and neither reported any problems. I had to dig deeper to find the cause of my problem. In the next section, we will dig deeper and see what Windows Explorer is doing.

Examining the Windows Explorer Process

This section requires you to execute the Filemon utility. This is a more advanced utility, but I’ll try to make it as easy as possible to understand. Follow these steps to look at the files accessed by Windows Explorer:

  1. Open the Filemon utility by executing the filemon.exe file. This will open the Filemon window, which should start filling up with information.
  2. Stop the capturing by pressing CTRL+E. We will only be capturing the Explorer process to make it easier to find the problem.
  3. Press CTRL+L to open the filter dialog.
  4. In the Include text box type explorer.exe. The next image shows the filter set to explorer.exe.

  5. Click the OK button to save the filter.
  6. Click Options and then Advanced Output to display even more information.
  7. At the main Filemon window, press CTRL+X to clear any results in the window.
  8. Now we should begin capturing. Press CTRL+E to start the capture. Since Explorer is running, there shouldn’t be anything appearing in the window.
  9. Open the run dialog, and enter explorer.exe and press OK. At this point Windows Explorer will attempt to load but will fail. That’s OK because the Filemon window will now be populated with some information.
  10. Once the capture has completed, press CTRL+E again to stop the capture.
  11. Scroll to the first item in the Filemon list and press CTRL+F to find specific results. In the Find window type FAILURE and press Find Next.
  12. If you found a record with a FAILURE result, look up that filename on the Internet, such as Google, or an anti-virus Web site. If that file is listed as a virus or spyware, search for a file to remove it.

    For example, when I had problems with Windows Explorer, Filemon indicated that Windows Explorer failed when writing to C:\Windows\System32\yycdd.tmp2. I performed a search on the file, but couldn’t find any information. Next I searched for yycdd and came back with some links. You may have to perform the same search technique for your files: first the whole name and then part of the name.

  13. If you need more information, you can also execute Regmon using the same steps as Filemon. They are similar tools, but Regmon displays registry keys accessed by Windows Explorer.
  14. If you are having difficulty with Filemon, or Regmon, then press CTRL+S to save the results to a log file, and then send them to me using the contact form on Technically Easy (this blog)> and I will analyze them for you.

Summary

The above steps are the ones that I followed when I solved my Windows Explorer problem. They are more advanced than simply executing programs, but sometimes computer problems can be complex. There are other tools available that may help, such as HijackThis, so you can try running those as well to see if they pick up anything. As always, you can contact me for more information.

4 Responses to “Windows Explorer Won’t Load – Advanced Solution”

  1. Grant says:

    How am I supposed to download filemon or regimen when Internet explorer isn’t working?

  2. Robert Chafin says:

    I achieved at least a temporary fix (a few minutes ago) by deleting a bad registry key:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS NT\Current Version\Image File Execution Options\explorer.exe

    Hope you find this useful.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for the information about the registry key. I looked it up, and it looks like it can be quite useful and dangerous at the same time.

      If I encounter an explorer issue in the future, I’ll have a look at that registry key.

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