Windows Shells Without Rebooting


We Don' Need No Steekin' Explorer!

There are a few shell and desktop enhancements for Windows Vista.  These third-party shells run in place of Explorer, which sometimes require registry edits or other tweaks to get working.  Did you know what you can kill Explorer and test a new shell without rebooting Vista?

Many people just to go Task Manager and kill explorer.exe, but if you do this then Explorer may start up automatically again.  There is also a quick and dirty way of exiting Explorer, allowing you to test a few shells before deciding which one to install.

This tip can also be handy if your system is just acting “wonky”.  If a file copy is hung, or your network is slow, then a reset of Explorer may be just what the doctor ordered.

The quickest way of exiting out of Explorer is via the Start menu.  Hold down Ctrl + Shift and then right-click on an empty area of the menu.  You’ll see a new “Exit Explorer” option.  The taskbar will completely disappear, as well as any related windows (usually file manager windows).

Of course, you can also kill Explorer the old-fashioned way: through Task Manager.  Right-click on an empty area of your taskbar and select Task Manager. You can also type “taskmgr” in a Run dialog box.

Locate explorer.exe and right-click it. Then select “end task”. Your taskbar will disappear, as well as any file manager windows.

If you want to run explorer again, then you can type “explorer” in a Run dialog box (press Win+R since your taskbar is gone).  Alternately, you can press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to run Task Manager and then run explorer.exe (click File, and then New Task).

Once you run Explorer again (via any of the methods above), then your taskbar and Start menu should appear again.  Some of your tray icons may be gone, and your desktop icons may be re-arranged, but at least it’s back.

Use this tip to test out some new shells or desktop enhancements, or just do it to shake things up… killing Explorer also makes a great practical joke to play on tech n00bs at the office.

Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.