IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How do I fix the Windows 10 Start Menu if it's not working?

Some simple fixes for a Windows 10 Start menu that's not working correctly or frozen entirely

A computer screen displaying the Start menu in Windows 10

A true staple of the world’s most popular operating system and integral to its smooth operation, it can always cause panic when you realise the Windows 10 Start menu is not working.

Microsoft has tweaked, changed, and fiddled with just about every feature in Windows over the years, but one that has held firm and remained largely the same is the Start menu. The familiar design and fundamental layout have stood the test of time and even though its cosmetics may have changed since the days of Windows 98, even the most veteran of users would have no problem jumping and intuitively navigating the Windows 10 Start menu.

The Start menu is the main navigation point and provides a simple interface that allows users to find any file, setting, or application they want on the PC. For this reason, it can be stressful when, for whatever reason, the Start menu either fails to appear or simply freezes.

There are myriad reasons that could explain a malfunction in the toolbar but thankfully such issues are usually temporary and can be fixed using a number of different methods, some of which don’t even require a reboot so that document you’re working on can remain open.

You can try any or all of the four reliable methods of restoring the Start menu to working order but before you do, make sure all your data is backed up, just in case the absolute worst-case scenario materialises.

1. Fix the Windows 10 Start Menu by restarting your computer

Although this has become something of a cliche in the IT industry, restarting your device really can be the remedy to any number of simple issues. This is because it clears up memory, and dumps temporary files that may be causing issues.

Additionally, programs sometimes fail to close properly, and can be using up system resources even if they do not appear to be running. Restarting can prove a quick fix for this issue, and if you're running a device with an SSD shouldn't take much time at all. If you find the Windows 10 Start Menu is still not working after the restart, you will need to start tweaking some system settings.

2. Fix the Windows 10 Start Menu by restarting Explorer

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

This method is generally quite effective and will solve most instances of a Windows 10 Start Menu not working correctly, although it may not fix any underlying problems. All that’s required is to open up Task Manager and kill a specific Windows process before restarting Explorer.

  1. Open Task Manager by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ESC at the same time. If the User Account Control prompt appears, just click Yes
  2. Click 'More details' on the bottom right of the window, which should open a bunch of tabs across the top
  3. Click the 'Processes' tab
  4. Scroll down until you find the 'Windows Explorer' process
  5. 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 deeper into Windows' tools.

3. Fix the Windows 10 Start menu using PowerShell

First introduced in 2006, PowerShell is the current version of Windows command line interface, and is incredibly useful for fixing various Windows 10 problems. You can also use the tool to reinstall Windows apps, hopefully fixing a Windows 10 Start Menu that is not working correctly.

A screenshot showing the Task Manager with an open Run command in Windows 11
  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"}

A screenshot of the PowerShell tool in Windows 11
  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.

4. Fix the 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.
A screenshot of the Windows 11 PowerShell utility

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.

5. Fix the Windows 10 Start Menu by updating your drivers

A screenshot of the Windows 11 desktop showing the Device Manager windows

Although Windows drivers are generally kept up-to-date automatically as part of the larger Windows Update cycle, it's sometimes worth looking to see if any can be manually updated. This includes built-in graphics drivers or even audio drivers.

To do so, you will need to access the Device Manager window from the Settings:

  1. The easiest way to do this is by clicking the Windows button
  2. Typing device manager into the search bar
  3. Open the Device Manager app that appears listed

From here you will see a cascading list of device types that lets you can click each category to see the list of specific hardware and software installed. To check to see if an update is possible, you can right click an entry, click 'Update Driver', and then click 'Search automatically for drivers', provided you are connected to the internet. It's possible to check each entry to see if a driver can be updated, but it's worth checking Display Adapters and Sound, video, and game controllers in particular.

6. Fix the 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.

A screenshot of the Indexing Options menu in Windows 11
  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
A screenshot of a sub menu in the Index Options menu in Windows 11

Once your machine has rebooted, your Start Menu should hopefully be working correctly.

These steps should fix most instances of a Windows 10 Start Menu not working correctly, whether it's simply sluggish or frozen entirely. Generally, a broken Start Menu should be a fairly rare problem on Windows and so if you are encountering this problem on a regular basis, it's likely you are experiencing a broader problem with the operating system. Therefore, if you have tried each of these tips and the Windows 10 Start Menu is still not working, you may want to consider reinstalling Windows 10 completely. If you decide to do this, it's important you back up your files and take a note of your Windows 10 product key in case of any problems.

Featured Resources

IT best practices for accelerating the journey to carbon neutrality

Considerations and pragmatic solutions for IT executives driving sustainable IT

Free Download

The Total Economic Impact™ of IBM Spectrum Virtualize

Cost savings and business benefits enabled by storage built with IBMSpectrum Virtualize

Free download

Using application migration and modernisation to supercharge business agility and resiliency

Modernisation can propel your digital transformation to the next generation

Free Download

The strategic CFO

Why finance transformation propels business value

Free Download

Most Popular

The big PSTN switch off: What’s happening between now and 2025?

The big PSTN switch off: What’s happening between now and 2025?

13 Mar 2023
Why Amazon is cutting staff from AWS

Why Amazon is cutting staff from AWS

21 Mar 2023
Why – and how – IP can be the hero in your digital transformation success story

Why – and how – IP can be the hero in your digital transformation success story

6 Mar 2023