I'm having big troubles with a remote server that for some reason explorer.exe crashed and, although I didn't lose remote desktop connectivity, I can't do anything. Is there a way of restarting explorer without rebooting the server?

I appreciate ANY suggestions!!

3 Answers 3


Explorer runs on a per-user basis. Can you log in under a different account that isn't already logged in?

Edit: Also, if your remote desktop session is still active, CTRL + ALT + END should have the same effect as a CTRL + ALT + DEL on the remote system. That might get you the Task Manager up, in which case you can kill/restart explorer.exe as required.

  • Thank you Chris, I can log in even with the same user but not using the console. Right now there are applications running in the console.
    – danboh
    Apr 20, 2012 at 23:09
  • 1
    If you can log in, you can remotely log off another user via the Task Manager. Apr 20, 2012 at 23:10
  • 4
    Wow... years of Windows sysadmining, and yet I didn't know about CTRL-ALT-END. Thanks a lot!
    – Massimo
    Apr 20, 2012 at 23:28
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    @Massimo You may also enjoy Remote Desktop Tips and Tricks via SE's own ^w ex Jeff Atwood.
    – jscott
    Apr 20, 2012 at 23:34
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    1. CTRL+ALT+DEL 2. Click Task Manager 3. Click File 4. New Task Run 5. Type "explorer" 6. OK - All done
    – Sathish
    Aug 25, 2016 at 13:19

CTRL+SHIFT+ESC is a keyboard shortcut for launching the Task Manager. It has "File->New Task..." which is basically a Run dialog that you'd normally get with WINKEY+R, which you can use to restart Explorer by entering "explorer" or "explorer.exe". I have used this shortcut numerous times when explorer has crashed and not restarted.

This shortcut is handy whether or not you are on remote desktop, but it definitely comes across regular remote desktop sessions (whereas CTRL+ALT+DEL does not) and is extra useful in that case.

REMEMBER: if you're in remote desktop, reconnect and check the option the "Apply Windows Key combinations" = On the remote computer for this to work.


If the explorer.exe is not killed yet, kill it in the task manager.

Hit windows+R for the run dialog, then enter explorer.exe, and hit ok. The explorer.exe should be started again, and you be good to go (on). Alternatively, to start the process, you can use the taskmanagers New Task… button from the Applications tab, which opens a run dialog as well (just renamed).

  • Thank you Kissaki, but I can't do that since explorer crashed, meaning no desktop, no start bar, nothing. This is a remote computer and I'm connecting to it through remote desktop, which means I can't type the Windows key.
    – danboh
    Apr 20, 2012 at 23:11
  • Eh? Remote desktop allows you to press the windows key. At least mine does. :) Captures it within the remote machine (/sends the keypress to the remote machine).
    – Kissaki
    Apr 20, 2012 at 23:12
  • I may have missed to mention that I'm using a remote desktop over Citrix
    – danboh
    Apr 20, 2012 at 23:15

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