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I was asked to run Windows Update on someone's laptop which hadn't been updated since they bought it (no internet access). There were about 500MB worth. Once they finished installing, the start menu suddenly stopped opening. I tried restarting the system, but no change. In addition, when right-clicking on the start button, the last 3 menu items are completely blank.

I've run various malware scans and nothing is coming up, so I suspect it might have been an update that tweaked something, but there were so many that I don't know where to begin looking. I'd really like to fix this without doing a complete reinstall. But I'm out of ideas.

EDIT: In safe mode, the start button is completely gone (but the rest of the taskbar is there). I tried running sfc /scannow, but it exited with "Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation."

At this point, I'm thinking the system is FUBAR'd...

EDIT 2: The Start Menu and Taskbar control panel applet doesn't work, either. The window appears for a split second and then closes.

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If you can go back to before windows update with system restore, I would first check sfc /scannow, chkdsk and also some serious antivirus checks.

If SFC finds any issues, see this.

You might also need to Perform a Repair Installation For Vista. This will refresh Vista on this machine without losing any installed applications.

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I was able to restore the system back to before the updates were installed and the Start Menu works fine. So, I ran chkdsk, which reported no problems, followed by sfc /scannow again. It completed the scan but said some problems couldn't be fixed. I reinstalled the updates and the same problem occurred. I was able to switch to the classic start menu via the Registry (the Start Menu and Taskbar options dialog won't open). The start menu opens now, but it only shows 2 items: Windows Update and Default Programs. I think I'm just going to backup everything and reinstall. This is ridiculous. – David Brown Oct 24 '10 at 18:50
If SFC cannot fix problems, then Windows is really loused up. If infection is a possibility, then reformat and reinstall is best option. Do slow sector-by-sector format, to ensure that bad sectors are detected. – harrymc Oct 24 '10 at 19:23
I've run malware scans that didn't detect anything. I finally found a Vista upgrade disk, so I'm going to try the repair installation before a reinstall. – David Brown Oct 24 '10 at 19:26
The disk I had contained Vista without the service packs, so it wouldn't let me do a repair installation and I didn't feel like going through the process of slipstreaming. Ultimately, I just backed up the photos and music and did a complete reinstall. Still no idea what started all of that, though... – David Brown Nov 21 '10 at 0:00
Windows Update is dangerous. I set it to manual, and never do it without taking first an image of the system drive. This has already saved me a reinstall a couple of times. – harrymc Nov 21 '10 at 7:15


As David Brown reports above, I used system restore to roll back to before Windows Update and my start menu worked again. But just like David found, as soon as the windows updates were applied, the start menu failed again. I also found that when I right clicked it, the bottom 3 options were blanks.

But I sorted it out. I'm posting this to help anyone else who gets this problem (thanks to all whose contributions helped me). Be patient, its a bit of a process, take it step by step.

  1. I opened a command prompt with administrator privileges. Since my start menu wasn't working I went straight to cmd.exe in windows explorer, right clicked it and run as administrator.

  2. At the command prompt I typed

    sfc /scannow
  3. I then opened up


    I reviewed new entries and looked for references to files it said were corrupt. In my case it was these.


    I ignored the last, as I was sure a corrupt wallpaper wasn't the issue!

  4. I got my ever helpful brother to send me copies of these corrupt files from his Vista system. So I could restore to mine. The files looked old and hadn't been updated for a couple of years, so I was pretty sure his would be compatible with mine.

  5. Before attempting to restore the files, I thought it a good idea to run scandisk - if my disk did have corruption, I don't want to save good replacement files on corrupt sectors. I ran scandisk by navigating to my C drive, rightclicking, properties/tools/check now. It prompted me that it would run scandisk net time I booted. So I rebooted.

  6. Scandisk took 2 hours or so to run after my system restarted... it found a few bad sectors, but not many. Hopefully it "walls them off" so windows will know not to use them.

  7. Windows started up. Now I had to replace the bad files with the good ones. I put a txt document on my desktop with the full paths to where the broken ones were (useful as a reference as I'm going to need to type those paths into a command prompt later). Since these are system files they are locked by windows - you can't just replace them in windows explorer. So I put my replacements into the same folder, but with .new on the end of them, ie in my case


    I copied the corrupt originals off to another folder, just in case.

  8. I used this method via the command prompt to replace the corrupt files with my new ones... using the command line stuff half way down this page

    It took a fair bit of typing at the command prompt, it's tough to get those paths 100% correct. When you get it right and it prompts if you want to overwrite the (old) file, type y to agree.

  9. After successfully replacing the three reportedly corrupt files with ones from the healthy vista installation, I rebooted. And after rebooting my start menu was back to working just fine, complete with the latest Windows updates! Wahey - only half a day wasted, but much better than having to do a complete reinstall of Vista plus all my programs.

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My suggestion would be to try System Restore to go back to a point before the updates to see if that 'fixes' it, and then apply them a few at a time to try and find the culprit.

From my experience tho, Windows updates don't cause problems themselves they just reveal other problems.


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Harry you beat me to it

Try a SFC, open a command prompt as an administrator, right click on command prompt icon and select run as admin, then type in:

sfc /scannow

hit enter key, when it is done reboot.

cmd icon: All programs > Accessories

Vista is such a hunk of junk, if you reinstall move to Windows 7.

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