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Article ID: 2694911 - Last Review: August 21, 2014 - Revision: 8.0

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Symptoms

When working in Windows, you may receive the following error message:
Windows Explorer has stopped working.  Windows is restarting
Additionally, you may notice the screen flicker just before or after the error message appears.

Cause

This issue can be caused due to any of the following issues:
  • You may be using an outdated or corrupted video driver
  • System files on your PC may be corrupt or mismatched with other files
  • You may have a Virus or Malware infection on your PC 
  • Some applications or services running on your PC may be causing Windows Explorer to stop working

Resolution

To resolve this issue you need to determine what is causing Windows Explorer to stop working, try the troubleshooting steps below to help determine the issue.

Update your current video driver

Outdated or corrupt video drivers can cause Windows Explorer to stop working. Downloading and installing the latest video driver can solve many of these issues. You can do this from using Windows Update or by visiting your system manufacturer’s website or by contacting them directly.
For more information on updating your drivers, see the following content on the Microsoft website:
Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Update-a-driver-for-hardware-that-isnt-working-properly)

Update drivers: recommended links (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Update-drivers-recommended-links)

Run System File Checker (SFC) to check your files

Use System File Checker to scan your PC for missing or corrupt files. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, and then type cmd in the Search box.
  2. In the results area, right-click cmd.exe, and then click Run as administrator. You may be prompted to type the password for an administrator account.
  3. Click Continue if you are the administrator or type the administrator password and then, click Continue.
  4. At the command prompt, type Sfc /scannow and then press ENTER.

The scan may take some time, so be patient. Windows will repair any corrupted or missing files that are found. If information from the installation CD is needed to repair the problem, you may be prompted to insert your Windows CD.

For more information about System File Checker (SFC) see the following KB article on the Microsoft website:

Scan your PC for Virus or Malware infections

Virus and Malware infections can cause problems with application performance. Use your favorite antivirus software to scan for any infections that might be hiding on your PC. If you don’t have an antivirus you can download and install Microsoft Security Essentials for free by following the link below.
Microsoft Security Essentials (http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials)

Start your PC in Safe Mode to check for startup issues

Start your PC in Safe Mode and see if you can reproduce the error. After starting your PC in Safe Mode, work as you normally do and perform the same actions that you perform when getting the error. If you still receive the error in Safe Mode, go to the next section and follow the steps to do Clean Boot troubleshooting. 

To learn how to start your PC in Safe Mode, see the following article on the Microsoft website:
Start your computer in safe mode (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Start-your-computer-in-safe-mode)

Start your PC in a Clean Boot environment and troubleshoot the issue

If you do not experience the same crashes in Safe Mode, it’s very likely a startup item is causing the issue. Follow the steps found on the following article to perform a clean boot and pinpoint the item causing the issue.

Additional Troubleshooting Steps:

The additional troubleshooting steps below are less common but can still cause Windows Explorer to stop working. 

Test your system's RAM memory

Sometimes faulty RAM (Random-Access Memory) can cause intermittent problems within Windows. Use the Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool by clicking Start, type Memory Diagnostics and select the result in the list. When the Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool window appears, choose Restart now and check for problems (recommended).

Test for picture files that may contain corruption

Corrupt images can sometimes issues with Windows Explorer. If Windows Explorer stops working while working with pictures or browsing folders that contain pictures, there may be corruption is one or more picture files. To test for this issue, follow the steps below:
  1. Click Start and click Computer
  2. Click Organize and select Folder and search options from the dropdown
  3. On the Folder Options window, click the View tab
  4. Place a check in the option to Always show Icons, never thumbnail
  5. Remove the check for the option to Display file icon on thumbnails
  6. Click OK to close the Folder Options window
Now, go to any folders that contain Pictures or Videos and see if you can reproduce the issue. If Windows Explorer does stop working, the folder that you were viewing possibly contains one or more pictures files that are corrupt or contain corrupted thumbnail data.

Note: After adjusting the options to Display file icon on thumbnails, and Always show Icons, never thumbnail, files no longer display thumbnails so pictures and other files will display as the default icon for their file types.  If you can reproduce the error with these options set, the issue is not with pictures or videos and you should return the Folder options to their original settings.

Check the details of the error to see which application caused Windows Explorer to stop working. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start and type Action Center in the Search area and click Action Center from the returned list
  2. In the Action Center window, click Maintenance, click View reliability history and then click View all problem reports from the bottom of the Reliability Monitor window
  3. Scroll down to the list of Windows Explorer items
  4. Double-click on Stopped working to view technical details and then make a note of the technical details.
 

Perform a System Restore

If the solutions above do not resolve the issue you can perform a System Restore to restore the PC back to a time before the issue started. If the issue has been occurring for a month or more, it may be better to follow the steps in the next section and perform an In-Place Upgrade to repair the issue. To perform a System Restore, follow the steps in the article listed below:
System Restore (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/system-restore)

Perform an In-Place Upgrade

If the issue has been occurring for a month or more, it may be better to perform an In-Place Upgrade and restore Windows to the original installation. Performing an In-Place Upgrade will not damage files and applications that are currently installed on your computer. To perform an In-Place Upgrade, follow the steps in the article listed below:

More information

Have other questions? To obtain free support, check out our Microsoft Community. There, you can search for answers or ask other users specific questions. Click the following link to visit the Microsoft Community Forums:

Microsoft Community (http://answers.microsoft.com/)
To see Answers posts about this issue, click the following link:
http://answers.microsoft.com/{All}/Search/Search?SearchTerm=%22Windows+Explorer+has+stopped+working%22&CurrentScope.ForumName=&CurrentScope.Filter=&askingquestion=false (http://answers.microsoft.com/%7bAll%7d/Search/Search?SearchTerm=%22Windows+Explorer+has+stopped+working%22&CurrentScope.ForumName=&CurrentScope.Filter=&askingquestion=false)


Applies to
  • Windows 7 Home Basic
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Ultimate
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • Windows Vista Home Basic 64-bit Edition
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit Edition
  • Windows Vista Enterprise
  • Windows Vista Enterprise 64-bit Edition
  • Windows Vista Business
  • Windows Vista Business 64-bit Edition
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
  • Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit Edition
Keywords: 
KB2694911
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