Keep The Windows Desktop From Crashing By Sandboxing Explorer Windows

The Explorer process runs a lot of important things in Windows, and when it crashes, it can really slow you down. It turns out, however, that you can sandbox Explorer windows so if one crashes, it doesn't drag your whole system down.

One option in Windows Explorer that I find extremely useful is the option to separate out the taskbar and desktop from the other open Explorer windows in two different explorer.exe processes. This makes sure that the taskbar and desktop stay alive if explorer.exe happens to crash, which it does quite often in my experience.

This is especially useful in computers that are used by not so computer savvy people, who won't know to hit Ctrl+Shift+Esc and run explorer again in case of a crash. I find it a timesaver too, because I experience lots of crashes when exploring my phone memory in Explorer via Bluetooth.

In Windows 7, there is a straightforward option in Windows Explorer under Tools > Folder Options > View > Launch Folder Windows in a Separate Process (Not to be confused with "Open Each Folder in a Different Window" under the General tab).

In Windows XP and before, a registry hack will do the same thing. Open up Regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorer, right-click in the right pane and create a new DWORD called DesktopProcess with value 1.

Note that sandboxing this process will be a bit more resource intensive than keeping them as one process. However, if you've got fairly recent hardware, this'll probably be a welcome change. Now, if and when Explorer crashes, you'll only lose that window and not your entire desktop.


Comments

    I thought explorer.exe automatically restarts.

      Under some circumstances it will, other it wont, it's a little hit and miss. The main problem can be if you happen to hang the explorer.exe process because you're browsing files in windows explorer, it can hang the main user interface for windows as well, a bit annoying having to wait for your hung windows explorer window to come back to life to do anything else.

    The "Launch folder window in a separate process" option is available in Windows XP too, under Folder Options > View as well.

      I'm running XP at work and this option just separates the desktop explorer.exe from the others. All others still run in one process.

    A handy trick is to open task manager, click the processes tab, and kill explorer.exe

    Then click File, New Task... and type explorer and hit enter.

    I find this is often the only way to recover the desktop if explorer doesn't automatically restart without restarting the whole machine.

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