Just as with previous Windows versions, explorer.exe is the process that is most prone to break at some point on Windows 11. Whenever it stops prematurely, you’ll see a blank desktop with the taskbar missing and only your mouse point showing until explorer.exe has been started again.
In this situation, the quickest way to deal with the issue is to restart the explorer.exe process.
What Is Explorer.exe?
Think of explorer.exe as a process serving as the shell. It’s actively used by File Explorer, the Start Menu, the notification area, the taskbar, and your desktop.
If you notice that explorer.exe has a tendency to break often, it’s good practice to set up a Restart Explorer option inside your context menu. This way, whenever explorer.exe breaks, you’ll be able to just restart explorer.exe without the need to restart your computer.
If you’d like this sort of functionality on your Windows 11 computer, this article will walk you through the process of Adding or Removing the ‘Restart Explorer’ option inside the desktop context menu of Windows 11.
We’re going to help you create two different options to restart explorer.exe via the context menu:
- Restart Explorer Now – This option will instantly restart the explorer.exe process.
- Restart Explorer with Pause – This option will pop open a CMD prompt window telling you that explorer.exe has been stopped and wait for you to take action before restarting it again – This method is helpful in those situations where you need to do one additional thing before you can safely restart Explorer.exe.
Important: The instructions below will require you to be signed in with an administrator account in order to add or remove the control menu. But once you establish it, all users that are currently signed in to that Windows 11 computer will be able to use it.
How to Add the ‘Restart Explorer’ Option to Desktop Context Menu
- Press Windows key + R to open up a Run dialog box. Inside the text box that just appeared, type ‘notepad‘ and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open up a Notepad window with admin access.
- At the User Account Control prompt, click Yes to grant administrative privileges.
- Inside the empty Notepad window, paste the following code:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell\Restart Explorer] "icon"="explorer.exe" "Position"="Bottom" "SubCommands"="" [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell\Restart Explorer\shell\01menu] "MUIVerb"="Restart Explorer Now" [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell\Restart Explorer\shell\01menu\command] @=hex(2):63,00,6d,00,64,00,2e,00,65,00,78,00,65,00,20,00,2f,00,63,00,20,00,74,\ 00,61,00,73,00,6b,00,6b,00,69,00,6c,00,6c,00,20,00,2f,00,66,00,20,00,2f,00,\ 69,00,6d,00,20,00,65,00,78,00,70,00,6c,00,6f,00,72,00,65,00,72,00,2e,00,65,\ 00,78,00,65,00,20,00,20,00,26,00,20,00,73,00,74,00,61,00,72,00,74,00,20,00,\ 65,00,78,00,70,00,6c,00,6f,00,72,00,65,00,72,00,2e,00,65,00,78,00,65,00,00,\ 00 [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell\Restart Explorer\shell\02menu] "MUIVerb"="Restart Explorer with Pause" "CommandFlags"=dword:00000020 [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell\Restart Explorer\shell\02menu\command] @=hex(2):63,00,6d,00,64,00,2e,00,65,00,78,00,65,00,20,00,2f,00,63,00,20,00,40,\ 00,65,00,63,00,68,00,6f,00,20,00,6f,00,66,00,66,00,20,00,26,00,20,00,65,00,\ 63,00,68,00,6f,00,2e,00,20,00,26,00,20,00,65,00,63,00,68,00,6f,00,20,00,53,\ 00,74,00,6f,00,70,00,70,00,69,00,6e,00,67,00,20,00,65,00,78,00,70,00,6c,00,\ 6f,00,72,00,65,00,72,00,2e,00,65,00,78,00,65,00,20,00,70,00,72,00,6f,00,63,\ 00,65,00,73,00,73,00,20,00,2e,00,20,00,2e,00,20,00,2e,00,20,00,26,00,20,00,\ 65,00,63,00,68,00,6f,00,2e,00,20,00,26,00,20,00,74,00,61,00,73,00,6b,00,6b,\ 00,69,00,6c,00,6c,00,20,00,2f,00,66,00,20,00,2f,00,69,00,6d,00,20,00,65,00,\ 78,00,70,00,6c,00,6f,00,72,00,65,00,72,00,2e,00,65,00,78,00,65,00,20,00,26,\ 00,20,00,65,00,63,00,68,00,6f,00,2e,00,20,00,26,00,20,00,65,00,63,00,68,00,\ 6f,00,2e,00,20,00,26,00,20,00,65,00,63,00,68,00,6f,00,20,00,57,00,61,00,69,\ 00,74,00,69,00,6e,00,67,00,20,00,74,00,6f,00,20,00,73,00,74,00,61,00,72,00,\ 74,00,20,00,65,00,78,00,70,00,6c,00,6f,00,72,00,65,00,72,00,2e,00,65,00,78,\ 00,65,00,20,00,70,00,72,00,6f,00,63,00,65,00,73,00,73,00,20,00,77,00,68,00,\ 65,00,6e,00,20,00,79,00,6f,00,75,00,20,00,61,00,72,00,65,00,20,00,72,00,65,\ 00,61,00,64,00,79,00,20,00,2e,00,20,00,2e,00,20,00,2e,00,20,00,26,00,20,00,\ 70,00,61,00,75,00,73,00,65,00,20,00,26,00,26,00,20,00,73,00,74,00,61,00,72,\ 00,74,00,20,00,65,00,78,00,70,00,6c,00,6f,00,72,00,65,00,72,00,2e,00,65,00,\ 78,00,65,00,20,00,26,00,26,00,20,00,65,00,78,00,69,00,74,00,00,00
- Once the code is successfully pasted, click on File from the ribbon menu at the top, then click on Save As… from the contextual menu that just appeared.
- Next, select a viable location where to save the newly created file (preferably on your desktop), then name it contextmenu.reg and change the Save as type to All files.
- Once you are ready to go, click on Save and wait until the file is saved.
- Next, navigate to the location where you saved the contextmenu.reg file, right-click on it, then click on Show More Options and choose Run As Administrator from the context menu that just appeared.
- At the warning prompt, click Yes and wait until the registry changes are enforced.
Note: When you are prompted by the User Account Control, click Yes to grant the admin access.
- After the reg file is enforced, restart your computer in order to allow the changes to take effect. At this point, you can safely delete the .reg file you previously created.
- After the next restart is complete, you should notice that when you’re right-clicking on your desktop you’ll see two additional options: Restart Explorer Now and Restart Explorer with Pause.
How to Remove the ‘Restart Explorer’ Option to Desktop Context Menu
- Press Windows key + R to open up a Run dialog box. When prompted by the Run box, type ‘regedit’ and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open up the Registry Editor with administrative privileges.
- At the User Account Control prompt, click Yes to grant admin access.
- Once you’re inside the Registry Editor, use the menu on the left to navigate to the following location:
Note: You can either get there manually by clicking on every location or you can paste the full path directly into the navigation bar and press Enter to get there instantly.
- After you arrive at the correct location, simply right-click on the Restart Explorer key and choose Delete from the context menu that just appeared.
- After the key has been successfully deleted, reboot your computer and you should see how the Restart Explorer context menu option disappears once the next boot sequence is complete.