The case of File Explorer failing to start immediately on Windows 10 v1909

Recently, after updating Windows 10 to version 1909, one of my workplace computers encountered the following problems:

  • File Explorer takes a very long time (say, 15 minutes or 2 hours) to launch from the Windows taskbar or the Start menu.
  • Most items in the Quick Link menu do not work. 

For the record, the Quick Link menu is the menu that you can invoke by pressing the Windows+X keyboard combination or by right-clicking on the Start button. It contains Apps and FeaturesPower OptionsEvent ViewerSystemDevice ManagerNetwork ConnectionsDisk ManagementComputer ManagementWindows Power Shell, and Windows PowerShell (Admin), none of which work on the affected system.

I could, however, circumvent this problem by running File Explorer by running explorer.exe directly. (To do so, use either the Task Manager or the Run dialog box.) I could also run all the affected items of the Quick Link menu via their Start menu shortcuts.

The culprit

The culprit of this case was DTShellHlp.exe, the shell extension helper of Daemon Tools. Terminating it using Task Manager resolves the problem until it runs again. 

I also noticed that the culpable instance of Daemon Tools did not start either, most like because of the computer’s prolonged lack of Internet connectivity. Daemon Tools is famous for its heavy-handed DRM behavior. It is freemium, meaning that it has a free tier. However, upon failing to validate its license, it refuses to work altogether instead of falling back to the free tier.

Other culprits

It is conceivable that you are having this problem but don’t have Daemon Tools. Ask yourself: Which of my apps is modifying Windows Shell?

But first, what is Windows Shell?

Windows Shell is the overarching component behind the Start menu, Windows taskbar, Windows desktop, Windows notification center, and File Explorer. Its entry point is explorer.exe.

Apps that modify the Windows Shell usually add an item in one of its context menus. Microsoft has published a guideline for the smooth integration of apps into the Shell, but developers don’t pay any attention to it.

It is not necessary to uninstall these apps. It might be possible to disconnect them from the shell via a utility called Sysinternals Autoruns. This app is available free of charge. Download it and use its “Explorer” tab to disable unwanted shell extensions.

Posted on 2019-11-26, in Windows Administration and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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