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Windows Explorer is the default shell under Windows (since Windows 95).

Sometimes you need to restart it, so my usual way is to kill it using the Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc, click on Processes, select explorer.exe, click on End Process).

Is there a way to cleanly shut down / close Windows Explorer without logging out?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

I know you can do this in Windows 7, and perhaps Vista by holding Ctrl+Shift and right clicking on the background of the opened start menu. You will get two options, "Properties" and "Exit Explorer":

enter image description here

I don't know for certain which version of windows this was introduced in, perhaps someone else does?

In Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, you have to do the Ctrl-Shift-right-click on an empty part of the task bar to get the "Exit Explorer" option.

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+1 for interesting tip. – James Sep 15 '11 at 12:01
This doesn't seem to work in Windows 7 64bit SP1. Maybe it is because I've switched off stuff like Aero and use the Classic (Win95-XP-Style) Start Menu? – Jonas Heidelberg Sep 15 '11 at 12:36
@Jonas Since it's a feature of the Start Menu, I think your replacement Start Menu component would also have to implement this functionality. – Neil White Sep 15 '11 at 12:45
I finally realized that you really mean to open the start menu and then do the Ctrl-Shift-Click on the opened start menu. I had always tried right-clicking on the start button, that's why it didn't work for me. I added a screenshot for further reference... – Jonas Heidelberg Oct 25 '11 at 15:32
This method is available since Windows Vista:… – and31415 Jan 27 '14 at 17:58

While Neil's answer works using the mouse, in this newsgroup post from 2005 I found a solution which works with the keyboard, and given the date has apparently existed since Windows XP at least:

  1. Win

  2. Esc

  3. Alt+F4

  4. Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Esc
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Faster way: Win+M / Alt+F4 / Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Esc – and31415 Jan 25 '14 at 2:37
I've found an earlier reference in a MSDN blog: – and31415 Jan 27 '14 at 16:43

Neil's method also works for Windows 8 and 8.1, here's how:

  1. Hold Ctrl+Shift
  2. Right mouse click on the taskbar
  3. Select Exit Explorer
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How does one start it back up? Do you have log out and then log back in again? – sethu Jan 25 '14 at 5:24
This is what I do: Ctrl+Alt+Del, Task Manager, File > Run new task > explorer – Hoang Huynh Jan 25 '14 at 5:46
Ctrl+Shift+Esc will bring up the Task Manager directly. – and31415 Jan 25 '14 at 14:29
Sorry - didn't see your answer before adding this content to the top answer! +1 ... – Jonas Heidelberg Apr 14 '15 at 20:44

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