Here's something that has bothered me for awhile and I wondered if anyone had any ideas. This has been on multiple computers, but always at work and always on a dual monitor setup running Windows XP Professional. It's been multiple machines now that have done it, but both machines have had ample RAM and speed.

I'll be running with a lot of applications/windows open. For example, right now I have 20 items in my taskbar. Often I'll have multiple Outlook emails opened and multiple Windows Explorer (windows key + E) windows open, too. I have noticed a problem where at some point, after some amount of items being open(ed) and/or over a period of time, if I hit win+e to open a new explorer window it my system will start feeling unstable and slow, and the new explorer window that opens is graphically corrupted. Instead of the file/edit/view bar and the navigation bar, it will instead just have a blank gray bar with the Windows logo in the center (which is usually in the upper-right corner). Closing this new explorer and opening a new one won't fix it - usually it's only if I close out extra open windows to trim down how many things are open that I'm able to recover and open a new explorer window and have it work normal.

Is there a limit to the number of native explorer windows you can open in XP, or the number of windows/applications in general? Outlook and explorer.exe seem to be the worst offenders, closing out extra of those windows.

  • 6
    edmicman, it seems like one of your programs eats a lot (most) of so called GDI counters. Use the Nir Sofer's GDIView utility to locate that program, and avoid using it.
    – shiromant
    Mar 25, 2011 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


From here: http://weblogs.asp.net/israelio/archive/2007/02/07/max-num-of-open-windows-under-xp-2003-vista-resolved.aspx (read the full article)

To tweak the limit, take a look in the registry at HLKM/System/CurrentControlSet/Control/Session Manager/SubSystems

(cranked up a bit if you find yourself manipulating a lot of desktop objects.)

Within that key is a subkey called Windows, which contains in it, among other things, the value "SharedSection=1024,3072"

Changing the SharedSection entry to "1024,3072,512" (note the comma and the value)increases the size of the "hidden" desktop heap.

If that doesn't work, try increasing the second of the comma delimited values (e.g. 3072 -> 4096) which is the size limit of any particular desktop heap.

Update: just to clarify for some pepole... on vista your default is 1024,3072,512 changing is to 1024,4096,512 will make the difference


One Feature That Will Help Gaurenteed

The other possibility is explorer having too many files open at once. A good fix for this is to enable "Launch folder Windows in a separate Process". It's a little know feature of windows that allows the machine to separate file/folder access from the Explorer GUI process (been around since XP).

It can be found under Control Panel > File Explorer Options > "View" Tab > Launch folder Windows in a separate Process

Possibility #1

If the folder is deleted or moved explorer windows will close themselves. Are these folders being manipulated in anyway?

Possibility #2

Alternatively, you can check to make sure that explorer hasn't become corrupted. 1. Launch an administrator commandline (Win + X) -> Press "A" 2. Click yes to accept the UAC prompt 3. Type this command "sfc /scannow" (without the quotes)

Windows will scan all of its core files and fix any problem it finds. I am an IT professional and explorer generally starts to behave after theses steps have been exhausted.

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