Occasionally the clock in the notification area of the taskbar stops working. If I hover over it I can see the analog clock view is correct but the digital readout is frozen. Today I tried to hide the clock and then re-show it but that seems to have made things worse. The icons in the rest of the task bar are shifted over and clicking on them doesn't seem to bring the correct window to focus. I have a Lenovo ThinkPad with some wireless connection and system update software installed that takes over some of the taskbar which may contribute to these problems.

If I log out of Windows or restart my machine, everything seems to be fine for awhile. However that means I need to close down everything I am working on, restart, etc.

Is there a way to restart the taskbar without exiting Windows? I know Windows does this occasionally when the taskbar stops responding but is there a way that I can force it to happen?

  • 2
    In truth, I'd be more interested in why it does that than in what a workaround for restarting Explorer is. That's a much harder question to answer though.
    – Moshe Katz
    Apr 15, 2013 at 18:01

8 Answers 8


Open the start menu and then Ctrl+Shift+Right-click in any blank space above, around or on the "Shutdown" button will bring up an option to "Exit Explorer" as shown:

enter image description here

I originally found this on HowToGeek and have used it in Vista for the last year. It results in a much more graceful closure of Explorer without actually logging you out.

You will still need to open Task Manager in order to launch Explorer again though, Alex's answer details how you can quickly bring up the task manager to relaunch Explorer.

The same can be done on Windows 8 by doing the same action on the taskbar instead (thanks to Karl in the comments). This is presumably as the Start button is now missing.

  • 2
    Nice. All the little things hidden in Windows. Apr 12, 2013 at 18:17
  • 1
    It looks like you have to right-click on any blank space on the start menu, not the start button.
    – cpt_fink
    Apr 13, 2013 at 1:28
  • 1
    That doesn't appear on my Win7 computer. Only 'Properties' is shown.
    – Macke
    Apr 13, 2013 at 5:37
  • 8
    On Windows 8 Ctrl+Shift+Right-click works on an empty spot on the taskbar.
    – Karl Horky
    Apr 13, 2013 at 9:57
  • 1
    @StarPilot As it helped the original query I would assume it did work and so works on vista, 7 and 8. Are you sure you are holding ctrl and shift while right clicking? The post i found it on specifically mentions windows 7.
    – Mokubai
    Apr 13, 2013 at 14:29

A quick and dirty way to restart the taskbar is to simply kill and restart the explorer process.

Ctrl+Shift+Esc go to the processes tab and look for explorer.exe. End the process, and select File > New Task (Run...). Enter explorer.exe into the field (specifically the filename "explorer.exe", you do not need to enter the full path and it may not work properly if you do), accept, and your taskbar will re-appear.

  • +1 Thanks wish I could accept both answers. Yours helped me with restarting explorer. Apr 12, 2013 at 18:18
  • 3
    I would like to point out that while the other answer is good, this answer will work for any version of windows. (Question tagged a Win-7 though, so it's all good).
    – zeel
    Apr 13, 2013 at 5:01
  • 1
    Note that if you kill the process (or processes, sometimes on Windows multiple explorer.exe processes are active), and then fire up explorer.exe again, the icons in the systray are not always restored properly. If you do the Ctrl+Shift+rightclick trick, the explorer will clean out icon caches before it shuts down and restore them properly when restarted.
    – Abel
    Apr 14, 2015 at 23:41
  • thank you so much! This saved me from having to reboot my pc.
    – Jason S
    Mar 20, 2017 at 16:18
  • The thing is that after this procedure not all system try icons are refreshed, e.g. the Notepad++ icon is gone and you have to kill the application and restart it to ever make the editor appear again.
    – kriegaex
    Dec 17, 2018 at 2:35

You could also create a batch file to automate it.

  1. From the start menu type notepad then press enter.
  2. Type the following in the new notepad.

    taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
    start explorer.exe
  3. Save the file as fixTaskbar.bat and save it on your desktop (or somewhere else easy to access).

When ever it has issues, you can simply double click on this file and it will restart it automatically.

  • The batch window didn't close automatically after completion for me. v14t's solution did, however. Upvoted both! Feb 10, 2015 at 17:12
  • Added start before explorer.exe so script finishes.
    – EquipDev
    Mar 26, 2018 at 8:56
  • The thing is that after this procedure not all system try icons are refreshed, e.g. the Notepad++ icon is gone and you have to kill the application and restart it to ever make the editor appear again.
    – kriegaex
    Dec 17, 2018 at 2:35

It can be done without creating a batch file, in a single command issued in the Run window (Windows+R) or in the Command Prompt (cmd.exe).

taskkill /f /im explorer.exe && start explorer.exe

It will terminate (end task) Windows Explorer (explorer.exe process) and then, if it's successfully terminated, will start it again.

  • This also works great in a batch file. Thank you! Feb 10, 2015 at 17:17
  • worked great in my case that taskbar was completely frozen.
    – hshib
    May 25, 2016 at 20:21

Try restarting explorer.exe in any event of crashing of your desktop appearance. Kill explorer.exe from your task manager (assuming you are able to access it). Then start it again (new task option in task manager). By this way you don't need to restart the PC.

  • you can also start it by trying to access the start menu Apr 13, 2013 at 18:29
  • 1
    Not exactly. Once the explorer.exe is killed, you can't access the start menu to start it. Neither by the Windows key, nor by clicking at the point where start icon lies on taskbar. Regarding the answer by @Mokubai, there is no sense in doing a tricky dance (Ctrl+Shift simultaneously followed by a right click) once on start menu, and then again you have to open task manager to start it when your fancy Vista start menu is gone. Moreover the method applies to selected versions of Windows only. Best way is use task manager as you can kill and start the process at one place.
    – Zeeshan
    Apr 14, 2013 at 6:08
  • So true! You can't use Windows + R to get to the run box once Explorer is closed, so may as well use Task Manager all the way through. As nice as the Control + Shift + Right click trick is... it doesn't appear to do anything that simply closing the Explorer process manually doesn't. Mar 2, 2014 at 9:56
  • @Zeeshan Use the @ symbol when addressing somebody. Otherwise it looks like a comment on your answer
    – barlop
    Jun 23, 2015 at 0:03

I sometimes notice that my taskbar occasionally freezes graphically too. This particular fix works for me:

Restart the Desktop Window Manager service. This can be done via services.msc, or type in net stop uxsms and net start uxsms in an elevated command prompt.

  • This service does not seem to exist on Windows 10.
    – kriegaex
    Dec 17, 2018 at 2:41

You could also do this from a python script:

import os
from time import sleep

os.system("taskkill /f /im explorer.exe")  
os.system("start C:\Windows\explorer.exe")

Note: you have to supply the full path: C:\Windows\explorer.exe otherwise it opens a folder window instead of restoring the taskbar.

  • 1
    Good point about the path bit. I couldn't work it out until I read your post. Thx. Feb 20, 2016 at 1:27

None of the answers above really helped. My task bar was gone, and I needed a keyboard based solution to get the taskbar back. What I ended up doing was:

A) Use CTRL-ALT-DELETE and select the task manager.

B) Use File->New Task(Run...) and enter explorer.exe

Your task bar should be back.


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