If you’re experiencing problems with File Explorer, the Taskbar, or the Start menu, restart Explorer to reset these Windows interfaces.
File Explorer is the Windows file manager. It’s also the explorer.exe process that allows you to interact with the Start menu, the Taskbar, and the Notification area.
When you restart Explorer, it’s similar to restarting an application that’s not behaving properly. You should restart Explorer before you restart Windows to see if that solves any problems you might be having with File Explorer, the Taskbar, or the Start menu.
When you install an application or make a change to the registry, you might only need to restart Explorer instead of rebooting your computer. This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth trying if you want to avoid restarting your PC.
Restart Explorer Using The Task Manager
The Task Manager is the traditional way to restart Explorer and this method was made easier in Windows 8/8.1 and 10.
To restart Explorer using the Task Manager, open the Task Manager by right-clicking on any empty area of the Taskbar and selecting “Task Manager” from the pop-up menu.
If you’re on the Start screen in Windows 8, you can start typing “task manager” (without the quotes) to search for it. Or you can switch to the Desktop by pressing the Windows key or clicking the “Desktop” tile. Then you can right-click on the Taskbar and select “Task Manager“.
If you prefer using keyboard shortcuts, you can press “Ctrl+Shift+Esc” to open the Task Manager on either Windows 8/8.1 or 10.
If your “Task Manager” window looks like the following image, click “More details” at the bottom to expand the dialog box and view the more detailed interface.
The “Processes” tab on the “Task Manager” dialog box shows a list of apps, background processes, and Windows processes running on your PC.
If you have a “Windows Explorer” window currently open, you’ll find the “Windows Explorer” process in the list of “Apps“. Otherwise, look for the “Windows Explorer” process towards the bottom of the list of Windows processes.
Select the “Windows Explorer” process and click “Restart“.
You’ll see the entire Taskbar, including the Start menu and the icons on your Desktop, disappear briefly, but they will reappear once the Explorer process restarts. Close the Task Manager window by clicking the “X” button in the upper-right corner.
Restart Explorer Using a Batch File
Batch files are text files containing commands to run on the command line. Running a batch file allows you to run more than one command at a time just by double-clicking on a .bat file.
You can restart Explorer on the command line using one command to end the explorer.exe task and another command to start it again. We’ll show you how to create a batch file to do this automatically. We’ll also show you to add a command to the context menu on the Desktop to quickly run that batch file without cluttering up your Desktop or Taskbar.
To begin, open Notepad. You can use another text editor, if you like, but we’re going to use Notepad in our example.
Type the following lines in Notepad.
@echo off taskkill /f /IM explorer.exe start explorer.exe exit
NOTE: That’s a capital letter “i” after the second slash on the second line above.
The “@echo off” line prevents all the commands being run from displaying in the command prompt window as the batch file is run.
The “taskkill” command kills the named process, in this case “explorer.exe“.
The “/F” flag on the “taskkill” command forces the system to kill the process. In some cases, you might be asked for confirmation when killing a process.
For example, if you want to close a browser with multiple tabs open, a confirmation dialog box may display before the browser will close. The “/F” flag allows you to bypass that confirmation dialog box and immediately close the browser.
Tasks can be killed using either the process ID or the image name. The “/IM” flag indicates the use of the image name for the process being killed. In this case, the image name is “explorer.exe“.
The “start explorer.exe” command starts the explorer.exe process again. Then we close the command prompt window with the “exit” command.
Now let’s save the batch file. Go to “File” > “Save As“.
On the “Save As” dialog box, navigate to where you want to save the batch file, such as on the Desktop or in a folder in Documents. To avoid adding another icon to our desktop, we’re saving it to a folder in Documents.
Enter a name for the batch file in the “File name” box. For example, we named our file “RestartExplorer.bat“. Make sure you add the “.bat” extension to the end of the file, not “.txt“.
Then, click the “Save” button.
Go to “File” > “Exit” to close Notepad.
Now we’ll add an option to the Desktop context menu so we can quickly run our batch file and restart Explorer. To do this, we need to make a change to the Registry. This may sound scary, but if you follow our instructions, you will be fine.
Press the “Windows key+R” to open the “Run” dialog box. Type “regedit” (without the quotes) in the “Open” box and click the “OK” button.
If the “User Account Control” dialog box displays, click “Yes” to continue.
NOTE: You may not see this dialog box, depending on your User Account Control (UAC) settings. We don’t recommend disabling UAC entirely, however.
In the Registry Editor, use the left pane to navigate to the following key:
Right-click on the “shell” key and go to “New” > “Key“.
Type “Restart Explorer” (without the quotes) as the name of the new key.
Then, right-click on the “Restart Explorer” key you just created and go to “New” > “Key” again and name the new key “command” (without the quotes).
Now we need to copy the path to the batch file we created. To do this, open “File Explorer“, or go back to an open “File Explorer” window, and navigate to where you saved the batch (.bat) file.
Hold down the “Shift” key and then right-click on the file. Select “Copy as path” from the pop-up menu.
Go back to “Registry Editor” and select the “command” key you created. In the right pane, double click on the “(Default)” value.
On the “Edit String” dialog box, paste the path you just copied for the Restart Explorer.bat file in the “Value data” box, and click the “OK” button.
Go to “File” > “Exit” to close the “Registry Editor“.
To restart Explorer, simply right-click on any empty area of your Desktop and select the “Restart Explorer” option on the context, or pop-up, menu.
Have you discovered any other methods for restarting explorer.exe? Any handy third-party tools for doing this? Let us know in the comments.