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When Windows Explorer (the window manager) crashed on Windows 7, one had only to open the task manager by hitting Ctrl+Shift+Esc, choose File -> New process and run explorer again. Actually, sometimes I killed Explorer and re-ran it myself - if killed, it doesn't save settings and that's helpful if system screwed your desktop icon setup.

Recently, the window manager of my Windows 8 crashed. When it did, I tried to run task manager with the shortcut I mentioned, but nothing happened. Ctrl+Alt+Del did nothing either, so I had to shutdown the computer by using on/off switch and start it again.

Is there a way to recover a system after window manager crashing?

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Ctrl + Shift + Esc does work on Windows 8 too – pratnala Apr 7 '13 at 13:49
Ok, on the desktop it does. But when the WM crashed, I tried the Ctrl+Shift+Esc several times without result. Maybe something more crashed than only the Window Manager. Are you positive, that Ctrl+Shift+Esc works too if explorer.exe is killed? – Spook Apr 7 '13 at 13:51
Yes. It works. And there is an easier way to restart the explorer process. Check my answer. – pratnala Apr 7 '13 at 13:52
Just on the side: does restarting Explorer process effect in saving its settings or not? If so, it is useless in the case I described :) – Spook Apr 8 '13 at 6:49
What settings do you mean exactly? – pratnala Apr 8 '13 at 8:48
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Sounds like it wasn't (just) Explorer that crashed as Explorer does not need to be running for Ctrl+Shift+Esc to work.

If the Explorer is unresponsive, and you need the Task Manager, then you use the Secure Attention Sequence (Ctrl+Alt+Del), and select Task Manager from there.

If the Secure Attention Sequence won't work, then it's definitely not just Explorer that's crashed.

PS: in Windows 8 you can manually close Explorer by performing a Ctrl+Shift+Right-Click on a blank area of the Task Bar and select "Exit Explorer".

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There are cases when Ctrl+Shift+Esc can be unresponsive too. But, this is only when Windows has screwed itself too much. Otherwise, this shortcut does bring up the Task Manager in the Desktop. Once you open Task Manager, scroll down to Windows Explorer and click Restart.

enter image description here

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That is when your Window Manager is responsive, such that you can actually open the Task Manager. What if your Window Manager just died and you see only clean navy screen with mouse pointer? – Spook Apr 7 '13 at 17:10
Then it is not just explorer that crashed – pratnala Apr 7 '13 at 17:13

you can also try this:

open the command prompt with administrative rights windows key -> type 'cmd' -> right click 'command prompt' and choose 'run as administrator' then type

taskkill /f /im dwm.exe

Windows 8 Restart Desktop Window Manager

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