Recover a Stuck Windows 8 Desktop by Restarting ‘File Explorer’

The ‘file manager’ is an extremely important software utility of any operating system. Apart from helping you manage your files, thought it is not a necessity, most of the time, it is also being used to manage the desktop by many operating systems (including ‘Windows’) too.

Previously, Windows’ file manager was called ‘Windows Explorer’ but in Windows 8 it is called ‘File Explorer’. Sure the desktop in Windows 8 implemented differently as it is displayed as another application from the new ‘Start Screen’, yet, its functionality (or how it is managed) has retained pretty much the same.

So even in Windows 8, the bottom taskbar, Start Screen icon, the desktop context menu, the background etc are still managed by the ‘file explorer’ (it is not the only utility that manages the desktop, there are other tools such as ‘Desktop Window Manager’ & ‘Windows Session Manager’ too).

Therefore, if the desktop got stuck, sometimes, a manual restart of the ‘file explorer’ might bring it back. Again, this does not work all the time. But in situations like, if the desktop is stuck, but the application (s) that you are working with is not, then that might be an indication that you might be able to recover the desktop by simply restarting the ‘file explorer’.

Note: In Windows 8, ‘file explorer’ is still listed in Task Manger’s Processes tab as ‘Windows Explorer’ …

So in situations like those, if you use Windows8, then you could follow the below steps for restarting the ‘file explorer’ as a fix.

Step 1:

First, press the ‘Ctrl’ + ‘Shift’ + ‘Esc’ keyboard shortcut to open the ‘task manager’ (a utility that can be used to ‘End’ and ‘Start’ new processes).

Step 2:

Then from the next window that you get, click on the ‘Processes’ tab and locate a process called ‘Windows Explorer’.


Note: If it is not listed in the list, then you can jump to the ‘Step 4’.

Step 3: If it is listed, then select that process and right click on it. Then from the menu choose ‘Restart’ (if I’m not mistaken, ‘Restart’ option is only available in Windows 8).


Then wait for few seconds, and if it was ‘File Explorer’ that was behind the stuck, then you should have a fully recovered desktop interface.

Step 4:

In the ‘Step 2’, if you could not find a process named ‘Windows Explorer’, then that is probably because it is crashed completely. In that case, from the ‘Task Manager’s’ menu, go to: ‘File’ -> ‘Run new task’.


Step 5:

Then put the below command into the command box and click on the ‘OK’ button.



This will re-open the ‘File Explorer’ in Windows 8 and as in ‘Step 3’, wait for a few seconds and if it was explorer’s fault, then you should have your desktop back.

Please remember that, as mentioned in the beginning, this does not always work (under extreme situations such ‘blue screen of death‘ for instance) but it comes in handy at times nevertheless.

An RHCE, 'Linux' user with 14+ years of experience. Extreme lover of Linux and FOSS. He is passionate to test every Linux distribution & compare with the previous release to write in-depth articles to help the FOSS community.

16 thoughts on “Recover a Stuck Windows 8 Desktop by Restarting ‘File Explorer’”

  1. Thank you SO much. Sometimes after coming out of a game, my windows desktop would be stuck. I’d get this blank blue background, and I’d have to alt-tab to something called “program manager” just to see my desktop and the entire taskbar was missing. I tried searching google on how to restart file explorer but most results were just people talking about how to boot windows 8 straight to desktop. I tried running explorer.exe before, since I figured the problem was that it wasn’t running, but I never thought to see if I could find it and restart it XD. The problem was that I was looking for explorer.exe and never found it, when it was Windows Explorer the whole time. Anyways, thanks again 🙂

  2. hei i can’t get in to the desktop i can’t see the desktop icon , i just stuck in the start menu and can’t do anything, it’s just saying please restart the file explore, but how i can restart the file explore if i can go in to the desktop? please help me, sorry for my bad english

    • Press ‘Ctrl’+’Alt’+’Del’ keys. This should (hopefully) give you a menu. From it choose ‘Task Manager’, from their use the instructions on the article to open ‘explorer’, if it opens-up successfully, then that might fix your issue.

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m not an expert on Windows systems. However, have you tried pressing ‘Ctrl+Alt+Del’ keys? If it’s working, then you should get a menu list (in fullscreen) and from there you should see an entry called ‘Task Manager’. If it doesn’t work, then I’m not sure what’s the cause is (it could just be your Antivirus that’s blocking the Task Manager)…

  3. I used the key board shortcut ‘ ctrl+shift+Esc’ and it worked to remove ” apps can’t open” but am still not able to get through to the ” change PC settings” help me pliz


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