It sometimes happens that when you boot your Windows XP computer, there are no icons on your desktop, and the taskbar will most likely be missing as well. This can happen because Windows XP has failed to load explorer.exe, which is the main process responsible for a fairly big part of the user interface of Windows, and that is the file explorer.
This situation might occur out of the blue, and it has been commonly related to a virus on your computer, but this is not the case. You will notice that when you turn on your computer, the only thing you see on your desktop is the wallpaper, and nothing you do will bring back the icons and taskbar.
There are a couple of solutions to this problem, and they’re fairly easy even to a non-tech-savvy user, so follow them carefully and you will have your icons and taskbar back the next time you turn on your computer.
Method 1: Create a notepad file to fix the issue
This method will require you to boot your device into Safe Mode with Command Prompt, and then create a notepad file which contains text that fixes the issue when you run it as an .inf file. What you need to do for this is:
- Reboot your computer, and interrupt the boot process by continuously pressing F8. This will get you into an advanced boot menu, which contains a few boot options.
- From the menu, choose Safe Mode with Command Prompt.
- Once Windows XP loads, you will see a Command Prompt. In it, type notepad and press Enter on your keyboard.
- Once Notepad opens, type the following text inside. You can also copy and paste it from here, to make sure you don’t make any errors:
HKLM, Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon,Shell,0x00000020,”Explorer.exe”
- Click File from the top toolbar, and select Save as. You can also download this file from – Please Google for fix.inf file.
- From Save as type, choose All files, and type fix.inf in the File name box. Save the file to Desktop, so you can find it afterwards. Click Save.
- Back in the Command Prompt, type explorer.exe and press Enter again.
- From the Windows Explorer that opens, navigate to your Desktop, and find the inf file you saved earlier. Right-click it, and choose Install. When it’s done, close Windows Explorer.
- Go back to the Command Prompt one last time, and type in shutdown -r, then press Enter to execute. Your computer will reboot, and you will have your icons and taskbar back.
Method 2: Run explorer.exe manually
- When Windows XP boots up, press simultaneously CTRL, ALT and DELETE on your keyboard to open the Task Manager.
- Click on the Applications tab, and click New Task… near the bottom.
- Type in explorer.exe and press Enter. Windows Explorer should now run and you will get your icons and taskbar again.
Method 3: Rename the explorer.exe process
- Use the steps from the previous method, and open Windows Explorer.
- Using the address bar, navigate to %systemroot%.
- In the folder, find explorer. It’s an application, and the icon looks like a computer.
- Just as a precaution, right-click it, choose copy and paste it somewhere you know as a backup.
- Right-click the original file in the Windows directory, not the one you pasted, and select Rename. Set the name to Explorer2 or something else.
- It might happen that you now have two same processes, one is explorer and the other is Explorer2, or whatever you named it. Click the old one, Explorer2, and click Shift and Delete on your keyboard, then Yes. This means that Windows generated a new explorer.exe that doesn’t have the issue the old one did, and you can reboot your computer.
Method 4: Check if the icons are hidden
If the previous methods fail, it might be the case that the icons on your desktop are there, but are simply not shown. This is not an explorer.exe issue, but it might happen every once in a while. The steps to solve this are very easy.
- Right-click anywhere on your desktop.
- Hover over Arrange Icons By, and choose Show Desktop Icons. The icons should be there now.
The explorer.exe process in Windows XP, as well as earlier and older versions of Windows is a critical process, and one you can’t really use your computer without, or if it has any problems. However, there are a few possible solutions for this, and you can go ahead and follow the methods above to solve it.