Windows 10 Start Menu not working: A 30-second fix

I had an issue with my Windows 10 Start Menu not working when I click on the Windows button on the screen or my keyboard, on two separate machines within two days of each other. The fix is easy enough but most people way overcomplicate it. Here’s the no-bull guide to fixing the Windows 10 Start Menu.

To fix the Windows 10 Start Menu, all you need to do is restart Windows Explorer from Task Manager. You can fix it in 30 seconds or less and get on with your day.

Fix the Windows 10 start menu with Task Manager

Windows 20 start menu not working
To fix the Windows 10 start menu not working, simply right-click on Explorer.exe and then choose Restart from the resulting menu.

A program called Explorer.exe provides the start menu functionality in Windows 10 and every previous version of Windows going back to Windows 95. When the start menu quits working, you just restart the Explorer.exe and it starts working again. Nice and easy.

To fix the Windows 10 start menu with Task Manager, bring up Task Manager by hitting the keys CTRL-ALT-DEL and choosing Task Manager. Or just hit the keys SHIFT-CTRL-ESC to go there directly. Sort by name by clicking on Name, then scroll way down to the end to Windows Explorer. Right-click on Windows Explorer and select Restart from the popup context menu. Don’t use the restart button on the lower right–that reboots your system. That’ll work too but it’ll interrupt your work. You’ll see the Start Menu and your taskbar disappear. Then they’ll reappear and everything will work normally.

That’s the 30-second fix that’s worked ever since the Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 days. I don’t think I’ve had to do this in 15 years but the current build of Windows 10 seems to be a bit touchy.

This will also close all your open explorer windows but that’s better than having to reboot.

Maybe this isn’t quite as easy as my fix for a scrolling Windows 10 start menu, but it’s close.

Fix the Windows 10 start menu from the command line

If you prefer command lines, you can fix the Windows 10 Start Menu from there too. From a regular command prompt, use the command taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F. You’ll see the Start Menu and taskbar disappear at this point.

Then issue the command explorer.exe to restart Windows Explorer. This brings back all those familiar Windows UI elements.

I find this faster than using Task Manager, but it’s quite a bit harder to remember. You could put these two commands in a batch file and put it on your desktop if you want, if you find yourself doing this a lot.

This will also close all your open explorer windows but that’s better than having to reboot.

What about SFC and DISM?

There’s plenty of advice out there to run SFC or DISM to fix the start menu. I’m very familiar with these commands. I’ve coached many a sysadmin through using these commands to fix Windows updates that failed. This does no harm but isn’t likely to fix the your issue with the Windows 10 start menu not working either. These commands replace system files but the likelihood that explorer.exe is corrupt is low. I’ve certainly used these to fix other problems but there’s no reason to spend 30 minutes trying to fix a 30-second problem, except to make you read more text and stay on the page longer to try to game search engine results. I’d rather help you solve your problem and let you get on with your day.

The same goes for fixes that involve running Scandisk or Powershell.

The long and the short of it is, sometimes Microsoft fixes a bug and it has a side effect. Explorer.exe gets wonky, and eventually they figure out why and another one of the monthly updates fixes it. I observed the problem on two Windows 10 systems, one with the March 2020 update, and one with the April 2020 update. I don’t recall having the problem at all during the Windows XP or Windows 7 eras, but it was pretty frequent in Windows NT 4 and even Windows 2000.

Some of Microsoft’s early 2020 updates seemed rushed, and had some unpleasant side effects. This seems to be one of them.

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