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This post is a last-ditch effort for ideas.

Windows Server 2012 64-bit. Dedicated hardware.

On reboot, the pre-login screen reports failed patches and attempts recovery. When I log in, the explorer.exe files are missing and I only have a windowed command prompt. Server services appear to be working (SQL, etc). It's acting like it turned itself into Server Core.

  • There is no 'last known good' configuration.
  • There is no restore point.
  • sfc /scannow returns "repair in progress, reboot and scan again".
  • DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Scanhealth reports no corruption
  • All DaRT tools report a failure to run.

I'd love to be able to repair the OS, get a GUI back to use tools, and/or rollback patches.

Edit Powershell files are also missing.

share|improve this question
For clarification, is EXPLORER.EXE quite literally not to be found on the HDD anywhere, or is the shell just not being launched? – Simon Catlin Mar 3 '14 at 16:04
explorer.exe is literally not on the HDD. Edited question to clarify that. – schroeder Mar 3 '14 at 16:06

At the command prompt, start the system configuration tool (sconfig) and check if you haven't switched the server to "core" mode. If so, you can re-enabled it.

Alternatively, you can start powershell and run:

Get-WindowsFeature Server*

You should have a feature named Server-Gui-Shell and another named Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra

To install the GUI shell from the powershell prompt, you can use:

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell, Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra

Warning If your GUI shell is listed as being installed (i.e. you're not running "core"), you might get the shell back by uninstalling it and then reinstallling it but chances are other parts of the system are toast. A much wiser choice at this point it to reinstall and restore a backup.

If the GUI shell is listed as installed, you can try to uninstall it with the following command:

`Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell, Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra

And then reinstall.

Warning (bis) You will need to reboot for any of the install/uninstall command to take affect.

share|improve this answer
Powershell.exe is gone from both locations. – schroeder Mar 3 '14 at 16:31
Then your install is toast. Rebuild from backup – Stephane Mar 3 '14 at 16:55

My initial thought would be to simply place a copy of EXPLORER.EXE in %Windir%. However, the fact that it's missing in the first place concerns me. It begs the question "what else is missing?".

I think I'd then want to confirm that Windows still thinks it should be using explorer, by running:

reg query "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\WinLogon" /v "Shell"
share|improve this answer
Registry reports the shell as explorer.exe. I tried copying one from a sister server, but it didn't work. – schroeder Mar 3 '14 at 16:14

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