Windows Explorer Crashes: Fixes

Under various versions of Windows, Windows Explorer may repeatedly crash either when certain actions are taken (e.g. right-clicking an item), after several minutes of use, or immediately after the system starts up. In some cases, the following error messages are displayed:

  • “Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close”

The first thing you need to do, if this problem occurs as soon as your system starts up or whenever you click on any file or try to perform any other action, is download a copy of Universal Explorer, an alternative file viewer. This will at least allow you access to the system so that you can make changes and begin troubleshooting.

Next, begin with the following potential fixes:

Turn off DEP In some cases, Data Execution Prevention may be causing the crashes to occur. Turning this option off for Windows Explorer may leave your system more vulnerable to viruses and other malware, but may allow your system to function properly until you can find another workaround. To turn off DEP for Windows Explorer, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start button
  2. Open the Control Panel
  3. Open System
  4. Select the “Advanced” tab
  5. Under “Performance,” choose Settings.
  6. Select the “Data Execution Prevention” tab.
  7. Select the option “Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select.”
  8. Click “Add…”
  9. Find Windows Explorer, which is generally located in c:\windows\explorer.exe and select it.
  10. Restart your system and check for persistence of the issue

Note that if Windows Explorer keeps crashing during the above steps, you can open the command line and type bcdedit.exe /set {current} nx AlwaysOff and accomplish the same effect.

Disable Shell extensions The site HelpWithWindows suggests that errant shell extensions may be to blame for Windows Explorer crashes, especially in cases wherein the issue occurs upon right-clicking certain files.

Download and install the tool ShellExView. It will show the description, as well as version details, company information, location, file name and more of any installed shell extensions and allow you to disable them.

Start by disabling all third-party shell extensions, then restarting your computer. If Windows Explorer doesn’t continue crashing, you know that a shell extension is to blame. Start re-enabling them one-by-one or in groups until you identify the culprit, then leave it disabled.


Switch antivirus software As we have noted, the presence of two overlapping antivirus or antimalware/spyware/firewall tools can cause various conflicts. Users should install one (and only one) strong anti-virus package and make sure it’s up-to-date.

In addition, certain antivirus packages can conflict with installed system software while other antivirus packages are not.

If you have already tried the aforementioned workarounds, completely remove or disable all antivirus/spyware software (Norton 360, ZoneAlarm, AVG, etc.). In fact, you may need to uninstall the packages–simply disabling may not work.

Next, re-install one and only one solid antivirus/spyware tool. If the crashes still occur, uninstall that package and try a different one.

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