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Windows 10: How to Restart Explorer.exe to Fix a Disappeared or Frozen Desktop or Taskbar

Has your Desktop or taskbar frozen or the taskbar disappeared? We show you how to restart Windows Explorer.exe via several methods to fix this, including cmd, the Task Manager, and the taskbar's right-click context menu.


Windows Explorer is a vital part of your Windows operating system. As well as providing you with the trusty File Explorer, it powers much of the desktop interface as we know it. Unfortunately, it also tends to stop working when your computer runs into problems. This is usually noted in with the error “Windows explorer is not working. Please restart explorer.exe”, or something similar.

What is explorer.exe?

If you get this error, it's important not to panic. While a frozen desktop, taskbar, or Start Menu looks scary, it's easily resolved in most cases. Explorer.exe is only responsible for running the above tasks. Though it's a Windows component, has built it in such a way that it won't cause serious instability to your system if it crashes.

Taskbar disappeared in Windows 10? It's also Explorer.exe

If your Taskbar disappeared on Windows 10, explorer.exe might have crashed and can be easily restarted.

The easiest way to fix if Windows Explorer is not working is a simple PC restart. However, if you have work that you still need to save, it's possible to recover your desktop through other means. As Task Manager, Command Prompt, and other programs are separate from the Explorer process, we can still launch those and restart explorer.exe.

Restart Taskbar, Desktop and File Explorer all at once

Today we're going to teach you how to restart Windows Explorer in Windows 10 using Task Manager, and the command prompt. This should resolve most temporary issues with the Start Menu, Taskbar, or desktop that you're having.

How to Quickly Restart the explorer.exe Process with Task Manager

The easiest way to restart Windows Explorer in Windows 10 is via the trusty Task Manager, which includes a way to stop and start it with a single click.

  1. Open Task Manager

    Press the?Start button and type “Task Manager”, then click the top result.

    If you can't access the Start Menu due to your explorer issues, instead press?Ctrl + Shift + Esc.

  2. Restart Windows Explorer

    Scroll down the list in Task Manager until you find the “Windows Explorer” process. Click it, then press “Restart” in the bottom-right corner.

  3. OR: Restart with right-click

    You can also right-click Windows Explorer and press “Restart” in the context menu for a little bit of extra speed.

How to Restart Windows Explorer in Windows 10 via Command Prompt

If you prefer the command-line or can't access Task Manager for whatever reason, you can make use of Command Prompt's kill and start commands.

  1. Open Command Prompt

    Press Start then type “Command Prompt” and click the top result.

    Alternatively, if you can't access the Start menu, press Ctrl + R, type “cmd”, and press “OK”.

  2. Run the taskkill command and start explorer again

    In your Command Prompt window, paste or type the following and press?Enter:

    taskkill /f /im explorer.exe

    Once your taskbar disappears, enter the following to start the explorer process again:

    start explorer.exe

How to To Exit Explorer via the hidden Taskbar Context Menu

With a nifty little trick, you can close File Explorer without the use of any external programs. This may work even if you have a frozen taskbar. Here's how:

  1. Ctrl + Shift + right-click on your taskbar

    Doing so will bring up the regular context menu, but with an addition at the bottom: “Exit Explorer”. Click it to kill Explorer.exe. With that done, you can move onto the next section to start it again.

How to Start Windows Explorer via Task Manager

Most of us use Task Manager to kill processes but forget that it can be used to start them, too. Here's how you can use it to start explorer.exe when it's not working.

  1. Open Task Manager

    Press the?Start button and type “Task Manager”, then click the top result. Or, if you can't access the Start menu, press?Ctrl + Shift + Esc.

  2. Click File > Run new task

  3. Restart explorer.exe with Task Manager

    In the “Create new task” dialog, next to the “Open:” heading, type “explorer.exe”. Press “OK” to start the process again.

    If your taskbar doesn't show up immediately, try clicking the space where it usually is.?

    With that done, you should all the tools you need to restart explorer.exe in Windows 10 to fix common issues like a frozen taskbar, desktop, or Start Menu. If you'd like to learn more about Windows services, you can read our dedicated guide. While you're there, why not take a deeper dive into Task Manager to brush up on your skills?


Last Updated on February 14, 2022 7:50 pm CET

Ryan Maskell
Ryan Maskellhttps://ryanmaskell.co.uk
Ryan has had a passion for gaming and technology since early childhood. Fusing the skills from his Creative Writing and Publishing degree with profound technical knowledge, he enjoys covering news about Microsoft. As an avid writer, he is also working on his debut novel.
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