Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I get messages from people having problems with Windows Explorer crashes on a regular basis. Mostly they go something like this: "When I right-click a file in Windows Explorer, I get a message that Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close" or "When I try to browse through the folders on my computer, I receive an error message that Windows Explorer needs to close."

In a lot of cases, these errors are caused by 3rd party shell extensions that are not functioning properly.

These shell extensions are responsible for creating the options you'll see on the menu when you right-click a file using Windows Explorer. Some 3rd party applications will add their own "action" to this menu, and this can cause problems.

Windows Explorer right-click contect menu

If you look careful at the picture on the right, you'll see several non-standard additions to the right-click menu: "Send to Fax Recipient", "Scan with Norton Antivirus", "TextPad" and "Winzip".

To try and find if a 3rd party shell extension is causing your Windows Explorer to crash on certain actions, you'll need to download this handy (and free) utility: ShelExView. It will let you view & disable shell extensions.

Click for Larger View

After you downloaded & executed it, ShelExView will show all shell extensions installed on your system. You could sort the entries so that you'll have all non Microsoft shell extensions grouped together. Next, select all these non Microsoft shell extensions, and disable them. Try the sequence that would previously have resulted in Windows Explorer crashing (for example browsing a folder, or right-clicking a file). If no crash occurred, one of the shell extensions you disabled has been causing the crash. To find out which one, start enabling one shell extension at a time, each time testing to make sure you can still use Windows Explorer without it crashing, until you find the shell extension that would cause Windows Explorer to crash.

ShelExView gives you all additional information you need to know such as the product & company name of the shell extension, as well as the version number. If you would like to continue using the software of the 3rd party whose shell extension is causing the Explorer crash, contact the company responsible, and check to see if there is an updated version of the software you are trying to use.

Another cause of Windows Explorer crashes can also be attributed to the existence of viruses or spyware on the machine. To tackle this, start by running one or two on-line virus scans. I'd suggest the on-line scan from eTrust and/or Trend Micro's HouseCall.

To combat any spyware that might lurk on your machine, I'd suggest the following program:

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, Javacool's SpywareBlaster, or SUPERAntiSpyware. As with Anti-virus scanners, run at least two different ones, they will detect different things!


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