Explorer Restart is a simple program that just restarts File Explorer (formerly known as Windows Explorer). The path of each open File Explorer window is noted, and each window is opened again after Explorer is restarted. The history of each window is not captured and cannot be restored, so you may wish to first use the Back or Up button in each window to navigate to the topmost folder within its respective folder tree.
The order that the folder windows are re-opened is non-deterministic; they will almost certainly not reappear in the taskbar or thumbnails flyout in the order that they did before Explorer was restarted. The excellent 7+ Taskbar Tweaker by RaMMicHaeL provides Windows 7 upwards with the ability to drag all the thumbnails back into the previous order (enable the “Drag to reorder” option in the Thumbnails section). Note that most of 7+ Taskbar Tweaker will die with Windows 11, as Windows 11’s Explorer has been heavily redesigned.
Explorer Restart is only tested in Windows 10 Pro 20H2 and the Server 2016 Desktop Experience. There is a small risk that running it will cause Explorer to enter an endless crash loop, as it is so painfully unmanageable, broken and unpredictable. Sadly, Windows 11’s Explorer rewrite comes at a huge cost of usability.
Since XP, every version of Explorer has offered its own means to cleanly terminate it, but there are two problems with this approach: you are not offered a means to re-open Explorer, and even when you do this manually (e.g. from a pre-opened Command Prompt or PowerShell window) your open folder windows are thrown away. Explorer is too stupid to remember your open windows during a clean close. Task Manager’s Explorer restart process also discards all your open windows.
Why does Explorer need restarting anyway? Two examples, both of which led to me needing to create this utility:
- Since the first COVID-19 lockdown, I have been working from home. Our hosted desktop environment is based around Microsoft Remote Desktop Gateway, and the RDS server I use runs Server 2016. RDP has a horrible bug where the desktop icon caption shadow frequently starts drawing incorrectly, rendering the icon names illegible. The solution is to switch off the caption shadow, but Explorer will then randomly switch it back on again, and you’re back to illegible icon captions. The setting itself does not change, and has no effect at this point. The only way to restore correctly-drawn icon captions is to restart Explorer. Sometimes you may have to restart it several times within an hour as it goes on a spree of breaking the icon captions, although normally it will hold up for a few days to a week or more.
- I replaced my PC in November 2020, and installed the new PC afresh. For some reason, Explorer on the new PC has a memory leak and needs restarting every few weeks (unless a Windows update brings about an update before this point).
See the readme for implementation and usage notes.
- Explorer Restart and my associated code library is licensed under the terms of the zLib license.