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How to Restart File Explorer in Windows 11

This post will show you how to Restart File Explorer in Windows 11 in order to apply some setting, tweak, or fix an issue with the Windows shell. Windows Explorer, also known as explorer.exe but not to confuse with Internet Explorer, is a default process in Windows 11 responsible for the user interface and shell, file manager, taskbar, Start menu, etc. Sometimes you might want to restart it to apply some tweaks or changes in the UI or bring the system back to life.

Like any other stock Windows process or third-party app, Windows Explorer can crash or hang. That is when you need to restart explorer.exe in Windows 11.

Restart File Explorer in Windows 11

Keep in mind that you cannot simply close all File Explorer windows. Even when the program is not open, Windows keeps running explorer.exe in the background, as it displays the desktop, taskbar, Start menu, and other parts of the user interface. Closing File Explorer and reopening it is not how you restart explorer.exe in Windows 11. There is a dedicated procedure for that.

Restart File Explorer in Windows 11 Task Manager

  1. Open Task Manager in Windows 11 (Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc).
  2. Click on More details it it in simplified mode.
  3. On the Processes tab, find Windows Explorer. If you have one or a few windows of File Explorers open, the needed process will be at the top of the list next to other programs in the Apps section.
  4. If File Explorer is not running, locate the Background processes section and scroll down to the bottom to find Windows Explorer.
  5. Click on Windows Explorer, then click the Restart button in the bottom-right corner of Task Manager.
  6. As an option, you can right-click Windows Explorer and select Restart.
  7. Wait for a second or two for Windows to restart its shell.

You are done. The Desktop and taskbar will briefly flash, and then appear as normal.

Restart Explorer using Command Prompt

Although it is not the most convenient method, you can also restart explorer.exe in Windows 11 using Command Prompt, Windows PowerShell, or Windows Terminal. Whatever you can launch will do the job. Keep in mind that elevated privileges are not required to restart Windows Explorer using Command Prompt.

To restart Explorer using Command Prompt, do the following.

  1. Open Command Prompt, PowerShell, or Windows Terminal.
  2. Type taskkill /f /im explorer.exe and press Enter. The console should report terminating the process.
  3. Next, launch Windows Explorer using the start explorer.exe command.

Restart Explorer.exe in Windows 11 using a script

Finally, you can create a script to relaunch Windows Explorer on demand. You can later assign it on a key or shortcut to relaunch explorer.exe using a keyboard.

Open Notepad and type the following commands:

taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
start explorer.exe
exit

Click on File > Save As in the main menu.

Now, Select All files from a drop-down menu, then give your script a name, for example, script.bat. Do not forget to place .bat at the end of the name.

Alternatively, you can save the script in plain text. After that, rename the file and change its extension from .txt to .bat. If you do not see the file extension, learn how to show file extensions in Windows 11.

Launch your script file to restart explorer.exe in Windows 11.

Windows Explorer is not Starting

If Windows cannot start explorer.exe and associated parts of the user interface, you can launch the process manually. Note that Win + R does not work if explorer.exe is not running. That means you need to use Task Manager to restart Windows Explorer.

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager.
  2. Click File > Run new task.
  3. Enter the following command: explorer.exe and press Enter.
  4. Windows should start the process and show the UI.

Now you know how to restart explorer.exe in Windows 11.

Add Restart Explorer Context Menu

Finally, you can add a "Restart Explorer" command to your Desktop context menu. This probably the most useful way to restart the shell on Windows 11. All you need to do is right-click the desktop background and voila and select the right command - the File Explorer will be restarted

To add the Restart Explorer Context Menu in Windows 11, do the following.

  1. Download a ZIP archive using this link.
  2. Extract the REG files to any folder location of your choice.
  3. Double-click the file add restart explorer context menu.reg, and confirm the User Account Control prompt.
  4. Now, right click the Desktop, and click on Show more options.
  5. You will see the new Restart Explorer command.

Use the undo file, remove restart explorer context menu.reg, to remove the entry from the Desktop right-click menu.

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2 thoughts on “How to Restart File Explorer in Windows 11

  1. DragRedSim

    I’ve improved on the commands installed by WinAero Tweaker; for 01RestartExplorer I use `cmd.exe /c taskkill /f /im explorer.exe /fi “modules eq Windows.Internal.ShellCommon.dll” & start explorer.exe` and for 02RestartWithPause `cmd.exe /c @echo off & echo The explorer.exe process will be terminated & echo. & taskkill /f /im explorer.exe /fi “modules eq Windows.Internal.ShellCommon.dll” & echo. & echo Done & echo. & echo Press any key to start explorer.exe process & pause>NUL & start explorer.exe & exit`

    The reason for the use of /FI is to ensure we are only killing the main shell, and not any other Explorer windows (since I use the Open folder windows in a new process option).

    Reply
  2. Tosnic

    Does not work.
    Windows Explorer simply closes, but never re-opens after choosing “restart”. Manually starting explorer afterwards does start Windows explorer, but the process is only visible in Task Manager and does nothing otherwise. Therefore, I need to restart my PC.
    This is another proof that Windows 11 is not working (a.k.a. it’s defect).

    Reply

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