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How do I fix the Windows 10 Start Menu if it's frozen?

If your Start menu stops working in Windows 10, here’s what you can do to fix it

A computer screen displaying the Start menu in Windows 10

Microsoft’s decision to replace the Start menu with Tiles in Windows 8 sent ripples through the tech industry and to this day is considered one of the tech giant’s greatest mishaps.

In fact, the backlash was so intense that the classic layout made a swift return in the very next major update, Windows 8.1, with the expectation that it will remain a permanent fixture that can be enhanced but not removed.

For instance, the latest iteration of the OS, Windows 11, has moved the Start button from its traditional, left-hand side location to the centre of the taskbar, and allows users to customise their Start menu into smartphone-like folder groupings. Other than that, things are largely the same.

So what makes the Start menu so popular? For many, it has been a staple of reliable simplicity for almost three decades, having first been introduced in Windows 95. It enables quick searches that allow us to find exactly what we need on our device. There are times, however, when the Start menu unexpectedly freezes – especially if you’re working on an older desktop PC that hasn’t been updated in a while. These situations are extremely frustrating and have the potential to significantly hinder productivity. However, it’s worth noting that, although rare, it does tend to happen to most Windows users at least once.

So, what can you do if your Start menu suddenly stops working? What are the different tactics that you can use to fix the issue? Whether you’re currently struggling with a frozen Start button or only preparing for the unlucky event, we've prepared a quick guide on how to resolve this common Windows 10 issue.

Warning: Please take the time to back up your files before you attempt any of the following fixes.

1. Fix a frozen Windows 10 Start Menu by killing Explorer

A screenshot of the Windows 11 task manager window, with the Windows Explorer process highlighted and the rest blurred

The first method we suggest also happens to be the simplest way to unfreeze the Start menu. It just needs the user to stop a Windows process in the systems Task Manager. It isn't a surefire fix as it might not work every time, but it is definitely worth starting here just in case it does solve the issue.

  1. First of all, open Task Manager by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ESC at the same time. If the User Account Control prompt appears, just click Yes.
  2. Next, you want to click “More details” on the bottom right of the window, which should open a bunch of tabs across the top.
  3. From the “Processes” tab, scroll down until you find the “Windows Explorer” process – right click this and select “Restart” from the menu.

Restarting Explorer usually fixes most Start Menu and Taskbar issues. Unfortunately, if it doesn't work, you're going to need to delve far deeper into Windows' tools.

2. Fix a frozen Windows 10 Start menu using PowerShell

First introduced in 2006, PowerShell is the current version of Windows’ command line interface, and is the tool we’ll need to try out the next fix.

  1. To begin, we’ll need to open the Task Manager window again, which can be done using CTRL+SHIFT+ESC keys simultaneously.
  2. Once open, click File, then Run New Task (this can be achieved by pressing ALT, then up and down on the arrow keys).
  3. Next, click the “Create this task with Administrator Privileges” option, then type “powershell” and press ENTER. This should bring up the PowerShell window.
  4. Here things get fiddly. You need to type the following exactly as it appears:

Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

  1. You may get a read notice in the box – this can be safely ignored. Once the process is complete, simply restart the machine to see if the fix worked.

If this doesn’t work, don’t despair as there are a few more fixes you can try.

3. Fix a frozen Windows 10 Start Menu by looking for corrupt files

For this method we’re once again going to use PowerShell, but it’s a bit less involved than the method above. It’s also worth trying this method first before any other if the first PowerShell fix didn’t work.

This one involves hunting down any files that may be corrupt, potentially interfering with the Start Menu.

  1. First of all, make sure you backup your system before going any further. You’ll also need to make sure your system is connected to the internet. 
  2. Next, open up the Task Manager again (CTRL+SHIFT+ESC), click File, Run New Task, “Create this task with Administrator Privileges”, type “powershell”, and hit ENTER.
  3. In PowerShell, type "sfc /scannow" and let it run. Here we’re telling the machine to scan for any corrupt files and flag them to us.

What we’re hoping to see here is a message saying “Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some (or all) of them”, which indicates it found errors during the scan.

If this appears, type the following command into the same PowerShell window:

DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

This will prompt the machine to search online for a ‘clean’ version of any corrupted file and replace them.

4. Fix a frozen Windows 10 Start Menu by rebuilding the index

The final fix on our list requires far less user input compared to the PowerShell fixes, but, as the pop up is about to warn, this one requires quite a bit of time to complete.

  1. Hold down the WINDOWS+R keys at the same time (the WINDOWS key is the one with the Microsoft Windows logo). This will open the Run window.
  2. Next, type in the following command, which will bring up the Indexing Options window:control /name Microsoft.IndexingOptions
  3. Click on ‘Modify’ in the bottom left of the Indexing Options window, then click the ‘Show all locations’ button. Untick all of the currently ticked boxes and click OK.
  4. Next, click on ‘Advanced’, go to the Troubleshooting section and click ‘Rebuild’. At this point, you will get a warning pop-up saying this could take a long time. Click OK.
  5. Go and make yourself a cup of tea, read the paper, or whatever else you might fancy doing to pass the time until the index rebuilding process has finished.
  6. Once finished, hold down the WINDOWS+R keys again to bring up the Run window. Type the following command to reboot your machine: Shutdown -r

Once your machine has rebooted, your frozen Start Menu problem should hopefully be fixed. If it’s not, however, you most likely need to reinstall Windows 10 completely. Don’t forget to back up your files and make a note of your product key first, though.

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