Windows shell extensions

By | July 6, 2009

A common problem with Windows XP installations is process crashes. Some of the most common process or application crashes that you may experience are Windows Explorer crashes. Do not confuse Windows Explorer with Internet Explorer however. Windows Explorer is the built in Windows feature that allows you to look in your hard drive and system files.  When you open up ‘My Documents’ or ‘My Music’, the window that opens it is Windows Explorer.  The task bar at the bottom of the screen is also a part of Windows Explorer.  Occasionally you might see a warning pop up on your screen that is something like this:

windows-explorer-error

windows-shell-extensionsOften these errors are caused by shell extension failures. Shell extensions are third party additions in Windows. This means they do not come from the Windows installation but rather from other programs you have installed on your system. Have you ever noticed when you right click on an item in your folder or on your desktop there are a variety of options available on that menu?

These options change based on which applications you have installed on your computer. For instance, you might find Winzip or Winrar options, as well as a Send to Fax recipient, if you have a fax program installed. Or a “Scan with AVG,” depending on what anti virus you might have installed on your machine.

These shell extensions are what puts those additional options into the right click menu. If those shell extensions are not behaving correctly it causes your Windows Explorer to crash giving you a failure warning. There are many free registry cleaner software that will search through your shell extensions and correct/fix the errors.

Shell extensions are not the only things that might cause this type of error however. There are other possibilities like viruses or spyware. You should consider running a full virus and spyware scan. If nothing is found, try using a few different types of AV to scan. Often, viruses and spyware get into your system and change small settings that do not cause much trouble at first, but can become increasingly taxing on your system over time.

If the shell extension scan, virus scan, and spyware scans did not eliminate the problem for you, another thing to do is download the debugger tools that are offered on the Microsoft website. These debugger tools will create a log file of all of the potential areas that you will need to look at and correct to resolve the issue.

For Vista, there is a Fix It For Me option on the Microsoft website (mainly for registry/driver problems) for people who don’t want to attempt anything themselves. Unfortunately, it isn’t available for XP anymore. There is also the Let Me Fix It Myself option, but I doubt many will be opting for this.

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