Two New Tricks to Quickly Close and Restart File Explorer in Windows 8 and 8.1


Knowing a quick way to shut down File Explorer and restart it is useful when you modify the Registry or make other system changes that might otherwise need the user to log off and back on before the changes would take effect. Simply switching File Explorer off and on is often sufficient and is easier than having to log a user off and on. Several methods for doing this have been well-known for years but there are some new wrinkles in Windows 8/8.1.

Close File Explorer from the taskbar

Taskbar menuA related method was covered for Windows 7 in a previous tip but is slightly different in Windows 8.x. This is the new procedure: 

  1. Hold down both the Ctrl and Shift keys and right-click on an empty spot in the taskbar.
  2. An example of the menu that opens is shown in the graphic on the right. Click “Exit Explorer”. 
  3. Some windows may remain open but your desktop will be gone. To restart Explorer, press the keyboard combination Ctrl+Shift+Esc to launch Task Manager and do the following steps. 
  4. In Task Manager, make sure “More details” is selected.
  5. Open the Task Manager "File” menu.
  6. Choose “Run new task".
  7. Type "explorer.exe" and click "OK". 

Close and restart File Explorer with Task Manager alone

An even quicker way is available by using a feature in Task Manager that was added in Windows 8.

  1. Press the keyboard combination Ctrl+Shift+Esc  to launch Task Manager.
  2. Make sure “More details” is selected so that the list is expanded.
  3. With the “Processes” tab selected, scroll down the list until you find the group “Windows processes”.
  4. Find  the entry “Windows Explorer”. (Yes, it is still called “Windows” Explorer here.)
  5. Right-click the entry and choose “Restart”  from the context menu or highlight the entry and click the “Restart” button in the lower right corner of Task Manager. (Example in graphic below.) This capability is new to Windows 8.

Restart Explorer from Task Manager

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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A very easy way to do this is to run Process Hacker and Rt-Click the explorer.exe process and select "Restart".

Less useful these days with solid state boot drives so easy & cheap .... even a reboot is fast enough vs let alone logoff.