Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can't find explorer.exe or iexplore.exe when run from task manager

Can't find explorer.exe or iexplore.exe when run from task manager on a Windows XP computer.

This is a post worth noting. A computer was brought to me after a support person had removed all kinds of trojans, malware and badware from the computer using various tools. The latest and widespreading of these has been Antivirus XP 2008 and Antivirus 2008. The aftermath of this was that the computer was clean but windows can't find explorer. There are many people who have and are still encountering this problem and all forum post that I found while trying to find an answer have not yielded an answer. they all result in the end with the person who is supposed to know this stuff posting to the forum telling the not so experienced person looking for help and advice to re-install XP.

I too have tried to find an answer as to why the explorer.exe file, although shown in the windows directory, could not run when started using Windows Task Manager or even when run using or through a command prompt. The file was there but it would not start when run.

This was a strange problem that started when a computer was infected with mal-ware, ad-ware and other Trojans and bad stuff that so many users manage to get themselves in trouble with. A common aftermath it seems after searching the web for an answer or running smitfraudfix. Although I didn't run this tool, other tools to remove root-kits and other bad software were executed and all the harmful software was removed. The problem now was, and that's when this computer was brought to me, was that explorer.exe would not start. The computer at login would just show a blank desktop. Nothing but the back ground with now icons or task bar. this was a curious problem and after running some tools myself saw that there was no harmful software remaining on the computer.
After trying to track down the cause of the problem by using the error message, I saw that no one had an answer for this problem and the only way some people were able to overcome the problem was to re-install XP pro. The people tried doing a repair install still had the problem or their re-installation efforts of XP failed because they hung up at the part when explorer has to start. A re-installation doesn't "clean out" the registry of erroneous things. It merely replaces system files and adds folders that may be missing (let's not forget it loads devices drivers too).

It turns out that the clue to this problem is not in the error message when run from task manager bu t the answer lies when explorer.exe is run from a command windows or prompt. The error for when explorer.exe is different than any other made up program name.

This is the common error message when a program that truly cannot be found is executed:

When you try to run explorer.exe, the message states that the program cannot be found or something close to that. It;s not the generic message of a truly mistyped, mis-spelled, or missong program. There is a little know regitry location where program "images" can be defined and that's where the problem was lcoated. One little registry setting in an obscure location was preventing explorer.exe from starting. Supposedly this same problem has been experienced by users with Internet Explorer too but I've not seen this one before. If you having problems with Internet Explorer not stating when the program is clearly installed, try this fix for it too.

To find the registry setting please go to this blog post and remember to link to both post and sites and bookmark us in your favorite online bookmarking/sharing sites like delicios, technorati, digg, and others.

Can't find explorer.exe when run from task manager or a command prompt


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2cents said...

Very nice post - good find. This is a very hard to find solution. There weren't any answers to this problem on all forums checked. It was sad to see that all the people on the forums that answer some of the most difficult problems were stumped by this one.

They did try however but it's such an uncommon place to look for a application startup problem.

Anonymous said...

Would recommend this post to anyone having this problem. It was the only thing that fixed this problem.

Anonymous said...

My problem was the exact same thing. Desktop loads but no icons, no explorer, no taskbar. All scans for torjans and viruses were now coming up clean but I had just a blank desktop with no icons.

Anonymous said...

You are a computer god.
Spent 3 hours on this problem before I found this answer.

Many thanks.