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In Windows 10, very often if I open a File Explorer window, or try to bring up the right-click menu, the whole Explorer shell seems to freeze, and cease to respond to input. The folder window will display but all files and folders will have a generic (white sheet of paper) icon, regardless of file type, and the shell just stays like that for up to a minute and refuses input.

All other applications remain responsive; only Explorer freezes. And then, after it "wakes up", any operations attempted while it was "in deadlock" e.g. opening other windows, bringing menus up, etc. are instantly executed.

Restarting sometimes clears the problem, but soon afterwards it returns.

This has been an issue since at least release 1803 on my laptop, which has Intel Core i7 7500U CPU, 8 GB RAM and a 512GB SSD.

Has this happened to anyone else? Any ideas what could be the cause?

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  • Did you add anything to the right click menu, software installations sometimes add them, this sounds like a misbehaving context menu addition is causing it.
    – Moab
    Feb 19, 2020 at 15:27
  • I have seen this before and it can be troublesome to remove the cause. Close (Exit) any applications using contexts extensively (DropBox and WinMerge come to mind and there are others). Then with these not running at all, run a Windows 10 Repair Install. That will normally fix this. Use the second link, Run in Place and use the option to keep everything. microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10
    – John
    Feb 19, 2020 at 15:33
  • @Moab, yes we have a few items on the explorer context menu: Tortoise SVN, VS Code, WinMerge, though have never experienced issues with them before. Feb 19, 2020 at 17:35
  • @John We do use WinMerge, so from what you said it could be the culprit. I'll check it out. Thanks! Feb 19, 2020 at 17:37
  • WinMerge works fine. I use it. but I had to shut it down along with Drop Box to allow the Repair to proceed properly
    – John
    Feb 19, 2020 at 17:42

1 Answer 1

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As suggested in the comments, explorer shell extensions were at the heart of the problem.

For me, the culprit was Classic Shell, though it took me a long time to discover that it was the root cause of my trouble.

I've been running version 4.3.1 of Classic Shell for ages and have not had any other problems with it. At some point I will look to see if the same behaviour occurs in updated versions.

If anyone else is suffering from this behaviour in Explorer, then turn off Classic Shell and see if that helps.

Thanks again to all those who posted. Hope this helps anyone else who is experiencing the same problem.

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