Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Running Avast antivirus. The machine has been running fine for several months. Last night, I noticed the screen blank, only the mouse was visible. So the Windows shell explorer.exe had crashed. I did Ctrl-Alt-Del > Task Manager > New Task > explorer.exe and it came up for a few second and then crashed again. Rebooted, got the login screen, and within a few seconds explorer crashed again.

After a lot of googling, I came across a tip which said that explorer.exe was missing from c:\windows\system32 but it was present in c:\windows. So simply booting in safe mode, opening a (Run as Administrator) command prompt and copying explorer.exe from c:\windows to c:\windows\system32 and rebooting fixed the problem.

Question: What would cause this to happen? Anyone seen this before? I ran some malware and antivirus scans but nothing came up. Any idea what's going on?


  • 1
    If explorer.exe was missing you wouldn't have been able to run it and it wouldn't be able to crash what you read was incorrect – Ramhound May 22 '14 at 21:27

explorer.exe does NOT belong in in c:\windows\system32. It only goes in c:\windows (and c:\windows\syswow64 and a few of the winsxs directories but that's besides the point).

c:\windows is protected against changes by pretty much everything.

So the real question here is why is your system trying to load explorer.exe from the wrong location? My guess is that you have a virus that Avast hasn't detected. You might try checking their support forums.

  • 1
    Or he had a virus, and Avast removed the payload (an infected explorer.exe), but didn't fix the references... AV's really good at that. :/ – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 May 22 '14 at 20:53
  • I almost said he should remove avast.. – NotMe May 22 '14 at 21:29
  • Strange. I had checked the HKLM\...\WinLogon\Shell key and it still said explorer.exe so I am not sure why Windows was trying to load it from the wrong location. But if c:\windows is the right location, why did copying it from \windows to \system32 fix my problem? Also, I don't see anything in Avast logs about an infected explorer.exe – partlycloudy May 22 '14 at 22:16
  • I get the sense that you guys don't like Avast, which antivirus do you recommend? – partlycloudy May 22 '14 at 22:17
  • I wasn't saying it was Avast's fault specifically; real-time AV packages in general tend to act that way. Manual anti-malware scanners like, say, Malware Bytes tend to be good for cleaning up the extra bits like that. That plus manual registry hunting and cleaning. – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 May 23 '14 at 0:08

Huh, it turned out to be the weirdest thing. I recently installed this keyboard/mouse sharing software called Synergy and the latest set of Windows updates causes explorer.exe to crash when Synergy is installed. See http://synergy-project.org/spit/issues/details/3980/ There is a beta version of Synergy out that fixes the problem http://synergy-project.org/download/?list

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