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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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3 Answers

up vote 10 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?

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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
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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: blogs.msdn.com/b/aaron_margosis/archive/2007/07/17/… –  and31415 Jan 27 at 17:58
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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 at 2:37
    
I've found an earlier reference in a MSDN blog: blogs.msdn.com/b/jeffdav/archive/2004/07/22/191636.aspx –  and31415 Jan 27 at 16:43
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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 at 5:24
    
This is what I do: Ctrl+Alt+Del, Task Manager, File > Run new task > explorer –  Hoang Huynh Jan 25 at 5:46
    
Ctrl+Shift+Esc will bring up the Task Manager directly. –  and31415 Jan 25 at 14:29
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