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A strange thing has been happening recently:

Whenever I open Control Panel from the start menu after a computer restart, explorer.exe hangs.

But thereafter (after the first crash), I restart explorer.exe and open Control Panel and everything works fine.

The same thing happens everytime I restart my computer (hangs the first time), and happens only with Control Panel.

What could the problem be?

Is this a bug?

[Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit]

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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

This isn't a known bug, so you'll have to search for it.

First stop is the Event Viewer (in Start / Programs / Administrative Tools). Open Windows Logs, and look for errors in the sub-items. This might point you at some error.

Second, check if your system is fully patched. Start Windows Update and see which updates are proposed. Pay attention also to the optional updates, and especially for device drivers.

Third, to check if this is a Windows problem or some application's fault. Reboot in Safe mode (by pressing F8 at lot during the boot, until you're presented with the boot menu).

If this is still happening in Safe mode, then something is wrong inside Windows and all bets are off. You might need to do some heavy and perilous manipulations to Vista.

But if the problem disappears, then some application is causing this, and you would need to find out which. Since this is probably an application that starts with Vista, best bet is then to download Autoruns and look for superfluous startups (I suggest that you first take backups, make a system restore point, and use Autoruns's option to store the current state so you'll have several means to undo your actions).

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Do you have any applications installed that add 3rd party applets to the Control Panel? These could easily cause Explorer to hang. .cpl files are actually DLLs, and displaying the applet's icon requires loading the DLL and invoking its CPlApplet function.

Uninstalling applications that have 3rd party Control Panel applets (one at a time) would be one way to narrow down which one is at fault.

A slightly faster approach (if you're comfortable with editing the registry) might be to backup the section of the registry where Control Panel applets are registered and manually unregister them, rebooting after each one to figure out whether it causes the hang. Also, rename any custom .cpl files that are in %SystemRoot%\system32, one at a time, since these don't have to be in the registry. Afterwards, restore that section of the registry and rename any .cpl files to their original names. If you find the culprit, uninstall/upgrade the related application. If you run out of 3rd party applets to unregister, then the hang is not related to a 3rd party applet.

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Get your original Vista install DVD and put it in the drive. Then open a command prompt as administrator and type sfc /scannow

This will check your system files for corruption against a known good copy from the DVD. It's the quickest way to rule something like that out. It takes 20-40 min usually depending on the system

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It's quite useless, if Windows Update has changed many system files : you get many spurious errors. And if you try to "fix" them, you destroy your Windows installation and will have to reinstall from scratch. sfc is only good for vanilla Windows installations. –  harrymc Sep 20 '09 at 19:24
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