Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Problem/Context:

I have a Windows 7 Ultimate computer. No bizarre software or services installed: drivers, Office, LogMeIn, Steam, Dropbox, Eclipse, PyCharm--pretty standard stuff. I use it for software development, managing files on NAS network drives, and gaming. The "startup" section in msconfig has literally four programs in it: iTunes daemons and the ATI driver utility.

The computer has a Core i7 processor and an ATI/AMD Radeon 6950 graphics card. No weird hardware devices or configuration.

Recently (though not after any major update or software install), Windows Explorer stopped working on boot. When I power the computer on, I get to the logon screen, enter my password, and then arrive at a black screen with my mouse pointer. Most common keyboard commands do not cause anything to occur.

The workaround to start explorer is to tap SHIFT 5 times, at which point a "Sticky Keys" prompt is presented, navigate to the control panel from the link in that prompt, from there navigate to and open the Task Manager, get a "Run" prompt, and run "explorer.exe". After this, my desktop appears normally. There are a few problems using this workaround:

  • It's a massive hassle.
  • No Aero or OS-level graphical effects (games and other acceleration-requiring programs work normally).
  • Control panel "All Items" screen is empty. I have to locate control pannel widgets myself (by path or "Run" command).
  • No task tray icons for programs that are running but backgrounded.

The problem does not occur in Safe Mode.

Question:

Short of binary-searching through my services, or reinstalling the OS, how would I go about isolating/addressing the cause of this problem? Are there any likely culprits?

What I've Tried:

  • Hard disk error check. None found.
  • Memtest86. All good.
  • Microsoft/Windows update. Installed all driver/OS updates. No change in symptoms.
  • Checking the Services control panel for anything that looked odd: disabled things that shouldn't be, unfamiliar services that were running. Everything looks normal, nothing unrecognizable or strange.
  • Checked the startup items tab in msconfig. Very little there, nothing strange, no important services disabled.
  • Rebooted from Safe Mode. In Safe Mode, Windows Explorer starts properly. Rebooting from there into normal mode does not resolve the issue.
  • Rolled back my graphics driver, test booted (same symptoms), reinstalled latest version of graphics driver. Issue still occurs.
  • BIOS settings inspection and reset. No change in symptoms. The BIOS is the latest version.
share|improve this question
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.