I would like to disable Windows Explorer from starting up. Mainly because I want to attempt working only out of the Task Manager using the Run dialog.

I am aware you're not supposed to, but I am curious if it's possible or not.

  • If you are using Windows Server, you can use a Core installation
    – uSlackr
    Jun 11 '12 at 15:13

If you're running Windows XP/Vista/7:

  1. Open the start menu.
  2. Type "regedit" (without the ") and hit enter (UAC might come up).
  3. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE → Software → Microsoft → Windows NT → CurrentVersion → Winlogon.
  4. Change the value of "Shell" to the .exe you want to use.

Reference: http://windows7themes.net/how-to-replace-explorer-exe-in-windows-7.html

For Windows 9x:

  1. Open C:\windows\system.ini with the editor.
  2. Replace the Shell=explorer.exe line with Shell=your.exe.

Reference: http://www.novell.com/coolsolutions/trench/3458.html

You can set taskmgr.exe to be your shell.

  • thanks for the info. I wasn't sure what to include since the question was not specific about the system used. Jun 12 '12 at 14:05
  • Just summarize the most important steps in your own words, that would be great!
    – slhck
    Jun 12 '12 at 14:06
  • 1
    all changes done :) Jun 12 '12 at 14:30

It is possible, yes. Though as you state, not ideal. Without the main explorer.exe running, you will not have a desktop/window manager unless you start or are running another one.

However, for Windows XP the steps to disable explorer on startup should be:

Go to Start -> Run -> Type in regedit and press enter.

Navigate to the following tree structure: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> Software -> Microsoft -> Windows NT -> CurrentVersion -> Winlogon

Change the value of the Shell key to blank, or another program to start instead of explorer.exe

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