You log on to Windows and… nothing appears even after minutes of waiting – no Desktop icons, no Taskbar, just a blank screen with background image or some solid color. What the funk is going on?! This can happen after upgrading Windows or some program/application, or it might just happen for no apparent reason from time to time. In the latter case, users of Windows Vista and later can check Event Logs for finding out the program, driver or service that causes such behavior.
By the way, if the screen is completely blank, use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+Ctrl+Shift+B to tell the display adapter to reset itself.
Making Desktop and Taskbar reappear with Task Manager in Windows
Yeah, it’s time to learn some keyboard shortcuts then. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc and something called Task Manager pops up. In Windows 8/8.1 and 10, it might be a blank window stating “There are no running apps” – click or touch the More details button on the bottom left.
In case the mouse does not work or you need to impress a friend with your infinite knowledge of keyboard shortcuts available in Windows, hit Alt+D instead.
Open File menu and click Run new task (Windows 8 and later) or New Task (Run…). Keyboard magic for this is Alt+F+N.
Type explorer and click OK (or hit the Enter key). After some disk grinding, Desktop icons and Taskbar appear again. Wow, resolving the blank screen really is that simple! 😀
PS. Do not tick the Create this task with administrative privileges checkbox (available in Windows 7 and newer) – explorer.exe should not be run with high privileges.
The explorer.exe program you just launched is actually nothing else than Windows/File Explorer you normally use to manage files and folders. If you launch another explorer.exe from Task Manager after Desktop and Taskbar reveal themselves, you’ll open a new Windows Explorer / File Explorer window.
But what if Windows Desktop and Taskbar are visible but unresponsive?
In Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, it’s very simple to restart Windows Explorer with Task Manager: just scroll all the way down the Processes tab to locate the Windows Explorer entry, right-click or touch and hold it and choose Restart. Done!
In Windows 7 and older, go to the Processes tab, locate the explorer.exe or explorer entry, then right-click it, and choose End process. If there are more explorer entries, repeat the process until you’ve killed all of them. By the way, Desktop and Taskbar disappear during this.
Then repeat the File, New Task, explorer, OK procedure described above and everything should be okay now.
A quick video about using Task Manager for restarting Windows Explorer
Here’s a short video tutorial for the two methods described above:
What to do if Desktop and Taskbar still do not appear in Windows?
If Desktop and Taskbar still won’t come back, go to Task Manager’s Details tab in Windows 8 and newer, or Processes tab in Windows XP, Vista, and 7.
Click or tap the Name column once to sort all processes by name and locate explorer.exe (there should be at least two of these by now). Right-click on both and choose End Process. You should then see no explorer entries in the list of processes.
Now repeat the File, New Task, explorer, OK stuff described above to reveal Desktop and Taskbar.
And if everything else fails, open the File menu, choose New Task, type shutdown /r /f /t 000 and click OK to restart your computer.
In Windows Vista and newer, you should now open Event Viewer to check why Desktop icons did not appear.
What to do if Taskbar is visible, but no desktop icons appear?
When Taskbar is visible, but the Desktop is still completely empty, right-click on the desktop, expand the View menu and turn on the Show desktop icons option.
Now the desktop icons should appear again.