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Windows Explorer Freezes or Desktop Goes Black After Logging In

Upon logging in, Windows Explorer may appear to freeze indefinitely. Symptoms include:

  • Only a few (or no) desktop icons appear;

  • Cannot double-click any icons, or the Taskbar or open the Start Menu.

To bypass this situation:

  1. Press Ctrl-Alt-Escape to open Task Manager.

  2. Under the Processes tab, right click Explorer.exe and choose End Process Tree.

  3. Wait a few minutes.

  4. In Task Manager, use File, New Task (Run) and run Explorer.
You may find the desktop icons appear and the Start Menu is responsive.

Alternatively, the login screen may appear as expected but upon logging in the desktop goes black.

This behaviour may occur if the some shell (Explorer) cache files are corrupt. To resolve:

  1. Open a command prompt.

  2. Type:

    attrib -r -s -h "%USERPROFILE%\IconCache.db" /s

    del "%USERPROFILE%\IconCache.db" /s /q

    On Windows Vista and above, also type:

    del "%LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\thumb*.db" /s /q

  3. Log out and log back in again.

Since this issue is caused by files in the users' profile being damaged, if you cannot operate the desktop to follow the remedy, you may need to log in under a different user profile or mount the hard disk offline in order to delete the problematic files.

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