Windows Explorer suddenly died and you are left with a bunch of application windows open. Before you perform a hard reboot by flicking off the switch, here are a few tips to enable the system to cleanly recover or reboot. These are all assuming that the system is still responsive.

Restart Windows Explorer

The Windows taskbar is actually handled by an instance of Windows Explorer. To launch a new instance, the following may be done:

  • Press “Alt+Tab” to cycle to an open command terminal. Execute the command “explorer” from there.
  • Press “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” and press the “Task Manager” button to launch the task manager. Navigate to the Applications tab and use the “New Task…” button to execute the “explorer” command.

If the mouse is also not responsive, you can use the “Tab” button to navigate the controls in the dialog windows.

Restart Windows

If the new Windows Explorer instance also refuses to function, a soft boot of the operating system would be in order. Since the “Start->Logoff” menu will also be inaccessible, try using the shutdown command to restart the machine.

  • Press “Alt+Tab” to cycle to an open command terminal. Execute the command “shutdown -r” from there.
  • Press “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” and press the “Task Manager” button to launch the task manager. Navigate to the Applications tab and use the “New Task…” button to execute the “shutdown -r” command.

The shutdown command also has a graphical interface if you prefer to use a Window to shutdown a window. Invoke the command “shutdown –i” to launch the GUI.

If all else fails

A hard boot is the only remaining option. Try pressing and holding the power-off button for a few seconds to invoke the motherboard’s power-down feature. If this still doesn’t work then go for the last resort of pulling the plug.