explorer.exe unexpected restarts

I have had major XP problems with explorer.exe for a few days now.

When I have a few explorer-based windows open and try to do basic tasks (such as rename files/folders, copy

files, or even just give focus to one), Windows closes them all, flashes to an empty desktop and then
reloads any non-explorer windows that were open before the crash. Most of the Taskbar icons also disappear,

although the programs are still running. The same effect happens when I try to open video files in Windows Media

Player, which also closes along with the explorer windows.

When the problem occurred for the first time, I received one of the standard 'explorer.exe has crashed' messages,

asking me to debug (I've got the .Net Framework v1.1) or close. I no longer get these, but I do get Winlogon

entries in the Event Viewer stating "The shell stopped unexpectedly and explorer.exe was restarted".

I also get the same effect when trying to open media files in Windows Media Player 8 - the program loads fine but

when the file is opened it does the usual and crashes explorer.

I have tried many of the solutions recommended to others in various newsgroups, but to no avail. These are as


- checking iMesh and/or McAfee software (not installed)

- checking HomeSite dlls (done)

- check for viruses and spyware (clear)

- fixing broken links and registry entries (done, but managed to break IE...)

- perform System Restore (problem persisted 'in the past', and now System Restore seems to be broken as well)

- use DrWatson for diagnosis (doesn't seem to work)

- check latest video/sound drivers (done)

- clearing history and cached web content (done)

- check core windows assemblies using 'sfc /scannow' (done)

- check XP fully patched up and latest version of IE (done)

The only items I have installed recently are ODBC.Net and MSDE, the latter of which didn't last long...

Any ideas?
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I would of said do SFC but you already have done so, do a normal CHKDSK in the start/run box.

You better set a restor point if you have none, this could well be a software problem or some sort of conflicktion, goto

start/all programs/accessories/system tools/system information, and look at, components, and the software entries by click once on the name on the left of the screen and then look on the right of the screen for details, also look at confiks and your IRQ entries, if there is anything wrong it will be highlighted in red text.

look in device manager to see if all is ok there too, make sure you look at controllers there!

I also notice you have not done a XP repair but i doubt if this will help, but you have nothing to loose..........
if you have any CPU temp monitor check this out, simply download any free software that will tell you the temp.

but to really know if the comp is over heating, have you installed any new hardware lately, does this only happen when your doing something in perticular, whats your hardware setup? scann/printer/dvd/CDR/etc......

Acronis True Image 2019 just released!

Create a reliable backup. Make sure you always have dependable copies of your data so you can restore your entire system or individual files.

Look for spyware/adware:


SpyBot-S&D is an adware and spyware detection and removal tool. This includes removal of certain advertising components, that may gather statistics as well as detection of various keylogging and other spy utilities. In addition, it also securely removes PC and Internet usage tracks, including browser history, temporary pages, cookies (with option to keep selected) and more. The program offers an attractive outlook-style interface that is easy to use and multi-lingual. SpyBot-S&D allows you to exclude selected cookies, programs or extensions from being reported, allowing you to prevent false positive messages for items that you dont want to be alerted of every time. It can even scan your download directory for files that have been downloaded, but not yet installed, allowing you to detect unwanted programs before you even install them. SpyBot produces a detailed and easy to understand report before it deletes any files and allows you to deselect any item that you do not want to be processed. In addition, a recovery feature allows you to restore your settings if needed. Very nice tool, that exceeds the capabilities of the popular Ad-Aware application.



AdAware is a privacy tool, that scans your memory, registry, hard, removable and optical drives for known data-mining, aggressive advertising, and tracking components. It then lists the results and offers to remove or quarantine the components. The program detects a wide range of adware/spyware related issues and can be updated with the latest signatures via the built-in update utility. Please be advised that removing certain components may impact the functionality of effected software applications. You should fully read the included Ad-aware documentation before removing any files!



HijackThis is a tool, that lists all installed browser add-on, buttons, starup items and allows you to inspect them, and optionally remove selected items. The program can create a backup of your original settings and also ignore selected items. Additional features include a simple list of all startup items, default start page, online updates and more. Intended for advanced users.


Keylogger Hunter

Keylogger Hunter is a program that attempts to detect any keyloggers that may be running on your computer. It performs a system analysis, which takes about 3-5 minutes and then produces a list of suspicious files (if any). It detected 2 out of 3 running keyloggers in our test. Future versions are planned to be shareware.



KL-Detector is designed to provide a way to find out whether your activity is being recorded with a keylogger application. It uses the fact that most keyloggers create a hidden log file on your hard drive and therefore scans for any suspicious activity during a test period that you have to initiate. Basically, it asks you to use the keyboard for several minutes, type some text or do similar activities, while it is monitoring your system to check if it can detect any suspicious logging activity. KL-Detector is intended for occasional use and not as a permanently running program, as normal PC activity may cause false positives. During our test, it did detect changes in a keylogger log file (that we installed), but it did not find the activity suspicious enough to warn us. Advanced users may get value by inspecting the logged items, however novice users should not rely on the results.


X-Cleaner Free

XCleaner is a privacy tool suite that detects and removes installed spyware and adware components and includes tools to securely delete files, edit the registry, disable startup programs and more. Additional features include IE home page protection, cookie, cache and history cleaning, built-in password generator and more. This free version also contains some additional feature options, however they are disabled and require upgrade to a full version. The spyware and adware scanning as well as many cleaning features however can be used freely.



SpywareBlaster doesn`t scan and clean for so-called spyware, but prevents it from being installed in the first place. It achieves this by disabling the CLSIDs of popular spyware ActiveX controls, and also prevents the installation of any of them via a webpage. This allows you to run Internet Explorer with Active-X enabled, but it will never download or even prompt you for any of the known ActiveX controls. All other Active-X controls or plug-ins will work fine. The SpywareBlaster database contains information on these known spyware Active-X controls and can be updated with the click of a button. The application windows displays a list of all controls that it is able to detect (this is not a list of what was found on your computer). The program cannot detect if you have any of the known objects already installed, but if you do, they will be disabled. The program also allows you to take a snapshot of your computer (certain settings) in its clean state and later revert many changes made by spyware and browser hijackers.



SpywareGuard provides a real-time protection solution against so-called spyware. It works similar to an anti-virus program, by scanning EXE and CAB files on access and alerting you if known spyware is detected. If this is the case, it initially blocks access to the file and then allows the user to select an action. SpywareGuard provides a fast scanning engine, signature-based scanning, heuristic/generic scanning, a control panel, and an online-update utility for downloading of definition updates. It does not replace your anti-virus protection, but instead detects programs that may cause privacy concerns. The list of detected programs includes AdBreak, AdultLinks/LinkZZ, Brilliant Digital, CommonName, Cytron, FreeScratchAndWin, FriendGreetings, HighTraffic, HotBar, IEDisco, iGetNet, Lop.com, MoneyTree Dialer and others.



SpySites allows you to manage the Internet Explorer Restricted Zone settings and easily add entries from a database of 1500+ sites that are known to use advertising tracking methods or attempt to install third party software. You can select the sites from the list, or optionally add all of them, or only the "worst offenders". The program then adds the URLs to the IE Restricted Zone settings. Once configured, there is no need to run the program again, unless you want to add additional sites.


WolfyUKAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the advert gemarti, but if you'd read my question carefully you would have seen that I have already checked for SpyWare.

I don't have any CPU temperature monitoring capabilities on my old P3 chip which not misbehaved for over 3 years. I haven't added any new hardware recently nor done an XP repair. What's the best way to perform a repair?

Chkdsk says it wants be to reboot before scanning, so I'd better let it take over for a bit...
Ouch....well good luck.

I suggest your do a fresh install.
WolfyUKAuthor Commented:
Chkdsk said it found errors, but chkdsk /f didn't seem to fix anything. The screen just went blank after its forced restart. Bizarre.

I've just tried swapping the RAM, as someone else suggested this could be a hardware problem. It made no difference.
WolfyUKAuthor Commented:
Now I'm _really_ annoyed. Tried doing an XP repair and it broke everything. Ended up rebuilding over the weekend, and everything seemed fine, but the same error just occurred!

I uninstalled the latest Update that took place last night by doing a System Restore, and the problem is still there. I have only installed Office XP, Easy CD 5, TVTool, NAV, Enemy Territory and GameSpy; all along with their latest service packs/patches.

Conclusion: Hardware... Any ideas? (pyrotechnic ideas welcome)
WolfyUKAuthor Commented:
The only difference is that DrWatson seems to be behaving after the rebuild. I've put one of 'his' logs at:

WolfyUKAuthor Commented:
Solution: Hardware.

My CD-RW drive's firmware seemed to be misbehaving. I had my suspicions when the re-installation of Visual Studio complained of dodgy files on the first CD when I knew for a fact that this was not the case (tested it at work). Disconnected the drive and now all is well. Except my DVD drive is also knackered, so I can't install VS atm!
PAQed, with points refunded (150)

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Windows XP

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