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I have a PC where I'm only running one application. I would like to prevent explorer.exe from being loaded on startup. I've read that one could change the registry entry in "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon" -> Shell"="" but unfortunately that absolutely doesn't work.

I tried manually to terminate explorer.exe, then replace it with an .exe that does nothing. That solution isn't great because in this case the logon cosumes approx 2-3 minutes (even-though without explorer). I guess there is a timeout period set up somewhere and the logon is using that time to find explorer.exe. Don't get me wrong: I do not want to remove explorer.exe from my system, I just want to remove it from the startup (logon) sequence. I know that it is possible as I have already seen it. For maintenance purposes one could manually restart explorer.exe via task manager.

Could anyone help me out, please?

Thanks in advance

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  • 1
    Why don't you just run the application in question maximized and end explorer.exe after the application has started? In order to be effective you would have to disabled Task Manager.
    – Ramhound
    Jun 15, 2021 at 17:07
  • 1
    Alternatively, you might consider replacing "explorer.exe" in that key with your program instead - but see the comments in superuser.com/questions/1016380/… regarding the risk of 'bricking' your system. Jun 15, 2021 at 17:09
  • Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately the option with the registry key doesn't work. I can enter whatever I want in that key, windows ignores it. If it is possible to shut down explorer after startup it should also be possible to stop it from starting.
    – ReScape
    Jun 15, 2021 at 18:17
  • Please note this registry key exist two times. One for 32bit and one for 64bit. Only the 64bit key is working. If you start regedit.exe as 32bit you will never see the correct key. Jun 15, 2021 at 19:24
  • With the shell key set, run Process Monitor and capture a boot log. See if the key you have set has been read. Jun 15, 2021 at 19:57

2 Answers 2

1

Explorer.exe provides basic Windows and desktop functionality. If you kill it while running, it is restarted a few times, and eventually Windows contuinues operating without it - with nothing on the desktop, and no taskbar. If that's what you want, then make a script to kill Explorer a few times, e.g.,

taskkill /IM explorerer.exe /F
timeout 5
taskkill /IM explorerer.exe /F
timeout 5
taskkill /IM explorerer.exe /F
timeout 5
taskkill /IM explorerer.exe /F
timeout 5

Run the script at startup; it might need Administrator privilege. Not elegant, but usable.

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  • Hi. Thanks very much! Yes, exactly, I want Windows without Desktop and Taskbar. For maintenance purposes I might launch explorer.exe manually via Task Manager. I'll give it try.
    – ReScape
    Jun 15, 2021 at 23:11
  • BTW, have you looked at Windows Kiosk Mode, windowsloop.com/enable-windows-10-kiosk-mode ? It also limits the user to a single application. Jun 16, 2021 at 0:34
  • Thanks very much for the reply. Unfortunately, kiosk-mode is not suitable for my purposes.
    – ReScape
    Jun 16, 2021 at 8:27
1

If you can't use Windows App Kiosk mode (intended purpose).

Then, this is the correct method for replacing explorer.exe in enterprise kiosk (embedded systems, PoS, ATM, etc.): https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/configuration/kiosk-shelllauncher https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-hardware/customize/enterprise/shell-launcher

Alternatively, there is the group policy setting, https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/previous-versions/windows/it-pro/windows-2000-server/cc975911(v=technet.10)

and there is a registry method using Winlogon script key: How do I replace the system shell (explorer.exe) with another process in Windows 10?

These other methods can't run UWP apps, because they rely on explorer.exe desktop functionality.

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