Windows 10: Lost your taskbar or desktop icons?

July 8, 2021

Way back when, I discovered how to restore a missing taskbar/desktop when Windows Explorer had closed incorrectly and taken them out (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/09/10/lost-your-vista-taskbar-and-desktop-icons/). Those instructions still work, as I discovered when this happened on my DH’s computer earlier today, but they’re a little different for Windows 10. In his case, he’d lost his taskbar and his desktop had gone black with just the mouse cursor showing. He could move the mouse, so that was a good sign that the computer hadn’t completely frozen. Before doing a hard reboot, I suggested he try getting his desktop back by restarting the Explorer process. And it worked!

Here’s how to do this in Windows 10:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del.
    • If everything is still working behind the scenes, you should get a list of options—go to Step 2.
    • If you don’t see a list of options, don’t continue with these steps. You’ll likely have to turn off the computer, wait 30 seconds, then turn it back on—with luck all should be well on rebooting the computer.
  2. Click Task Manager.
  3. On the Processes tab, check that no Explorer.exe processes are still running. If they are, end them (select each one then click End Process in the bottom right corner of the Task Manager window).
  4. Go to File > Run new task.
  5. In the pop-up window, type Explorer.exe, then click OK.
  6. With luck everything should start to display again within a few seconds. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to reboot your computer:
    • Try the ‘soft’ way first, which is to press Ctrl+Alt+Del again, then click the power icon in the lower right of the window and choose either Restart or Shut down, if offered those options.
    • If you don’t see any of those options, then you’ll have to do a hard reboot, which means pressing the power button on your computer to turn it off, wait 30 seconds, then turn it on again.

[Link last check July 2021]


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