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So, this all started when there was an old shortcut in explorer that wouldn't go away. It was OneDrive - Personal. I didn't need it because I already had my business OneDrive. It was below Home and in the section in file explorer above the quick access section. Can't take a screen snip now because file explorer is absolutely messed up.

So, I tried to find a way to get rid of it and eventually settled on deleting the explorer registry key (I think HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer) I saw it on a website and I should've never thought that was a good idea. Now, explorer looks like this:

Corrupt Explorer

I can't access WSL, add any shortcuts to quick access, change any folder options. Only the basic stuff. This is what happens if I try to add a shortcut (what the heck is that supposed to mean?):

Error

Also, control panel looks like this now (it's blank):

Control Panel

I can't do SQUAT in control panel. NOTHING. Appwiz.cpl doesn't even work.

I tried dism, sfc, troubleshooters. Nothing works. I might just have to reset windows although I don't like doing stuff like that. I suppose I could just clone my disk to an image though. Does anyone here have an idea so I don't have to reset Windows?

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  • Login into the built-in Administrator account after you enable it, create a new user account, and transition to that account. If you Reset Windows you won’t be able use the option to keep your files since it essentially transfers the user profile to the new installation which is completely corrupt since you deleted a required registry key.
    – Ramhound
    Aug 13, 2023 at 1:58
  • Yeah, the account thing didn't work. I don't want to have to reinstall Windows just because of this Aug 13, 2023 at 2:05
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    That’s the only solution to this problem. You deleted a critical registry key for the entire machine, which is the reason, another user won’t work (just noticed that).
    – Ramhound
    Aug 13, 2023 at 2:09
  • Net time, rename it and test. :-) Aug 13, 2023 at 2:32

1 Answer 1

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  1. Stop trying to boot from Windows -- each time you attempt, there likely will be further damage to the system.

  2. Make a full disk image using any third-party tool on USB, such as Macrium Reflect Rescue Environment, Paragon Rescue Kit or alternative. If you already had made such a disk image before altering the Registry, you could just have restored it to fix the issue. However, there may still be data on the drive, so make the image now, to prevent further loss.

  3. Download the correct Windows ISO and create a repair USB using the Windows installation media creation tool. Do not try an alternate OS to create the media; most end in failures, with questions posted here and elsewhere.

  4. Use the installation media to repair Windows, keeping files. If you're lucky, this should reinstall Windows without deleting your profile or data, and this should not take more than an hour or two.

  5. If the operating system and file system are so badly damaged that reinstallation keeping files is futile,

    a. Reinstall Windows completely from the USB you created.

    b. Salvage what data you can from the the disk image you made.

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