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Restarting Windows Explorer couldn't be easier!
Restarting Windows Explorer couldn't be easier!

Restart Windows Explorer manually

When you often need to restart Windows Explorer it is quite cumbersome to do this by hand.  That's why we have developed ShellDispenser; a small utility that lets you restart Windows Explorer automatically.  You can do it with the press of a key, or even as an automated step in your build environment or installation script!

The most common way people shut down Explorer is by selecting the "Explorer.exe" task in Task Manager and ending it.  However, this way Explorer will not get the opportunity to close down properly.  This may result in changed settings not being being saved etc.  You also have to remember closing both "explorer" processes when you have enabled the folder option "Launch folder windows in a separate process".

A somewhat better way to close Explorer is by opening the "Turn off computer" window by clicking the "Start" button in the task bar and then selecting "Turn Off Computer".  In this window simultaneously press the Control, Shift and Alt keys and click on "Cancel".  Explorer will now close, which will result in an empty desktop.
For Windows Vista and Windows 7 the procedure is different; first you open the start menu, after which you keep the Ctrl and Shift keys pressed and simultaneously click on an empty spot in the lower left corner of the start menu with the right mouse button.  A menu will appear from which you select the option "Exit Explorer".
This method will however only close the Explorer process that managed the desktop; when you have enabled the folder option "Launch folder options in a separate process" you still have to manually close the other Explorer process via Task Manager.

To restart Explorer again, open Task Manager.  This can be done by holding down Control and Shift and then pressing Escape.  Another way is to hold down Control and Alt and then press Delete.  From Task Manager, select "File" from the main menu and select "New Task (Run...)".  Type "Explorer.exe" (without the quotes), and press Enter.  Explorer will now restart.  All folder windows you had open will however not re-open again like ShellDispenser can do for you.