Explorer.exe crashed out on me without bringing the system entirely to its knees. This is not the first time this has happened. Basically I lose the Start Bar + taskbar + systray + desktop icons and am left with a solid dark blue desktop (no background image).
By control-alt-delete I can bring up the lock screen menu (including task manager). Using a combination of task manager, command prompts and MS sysinternals' Process Explorer, I can generate both standard user windows and elevated windows (details available if needed). However, under neither my standard login nor my elevated admin login can I seem to re-launch explorer to restore the desktop. Running explorer.exe without any switches appears to do nothing. Explorer.exe /n or /e (or any other documented switch or launching with "START") gives me a file browser window, but not the start bar + taskbar. Killing and restarting this explorer.exe does not restore functionality either. Right clicking Windows Explorer (the new file explorer window) in task manager and selecting "Restart" drops it from Processes->Apps to Processes->Windows Processes (without an open file explorer) and restarting from there changes it to Processes->Background Processes from where there is neither an open file explorer nor "Restart" menu option.
Windows key shortcuts appear to be non-functional, as the start bar doesn't exist. They do not work with the started file explorer window in focus. Alt-F4 with nothing in focus or after clicking on the blue background doesn't bring up any menu/dialogue. Alt-F4 from within an application still works to close that window|application as appropriate. My headphones' up-down volume signals are also not interpreted whatever remains up of the system (but I can control volume via an application-specific slider).
I can't seem to bring up the shutdown dialogue as per tip two of https://serverfault.com/questions/4464/hidden-commands-on-windows as I can't use keyboard shortcuts or use the start bar. Using the following code inspired by this and that:
As an hta file (and clicking on Shut down windows) doesn't do anything, but doesn't throw any errors. As an htm(l) file in Internet Explorer it throws a "Permission Denied" error, regardless of the settings for the local zone. I've tried a few permutations of this code including: here, here
Control-Alt-Delete followed by "switch user" and direct login as the administrator account results in a login to a pure black screen with a mouse cursor. Control-Alt-Delete and switching back to my non-admin login brings back my solid dark blue "desktop" without icons (after about 0.1s of displaying a solid light blue|cyan|teal "desktop").
I'm wondering if there's a CLSID or application object that can be invoked to call whatever is called from control-alt-shift + cancel from the shutdown dialogue? Alternatively, do you know of any way that I can kill off a System Service that wraps explorer, restart the service to give me back my desktop?
I would rather not shutdown/reboot as I'm essentially using this PC as a server and want it to be as "always-up" as possible.