How to fix the Windows 10 Start menu if it's frozen

Is your Windows 10 Start menu not working? Here's how to get it back

When Windows 10 works, it's a great operating system. When it doesn't, you'll want to throw your computer out of the literal window. Among Microsoft's pile of peculiarities is its talent for throwing up brain-scratching bugs. One of the worst of these is a tendency for the Start menu to stop working.

Good news. There are a few solutions to this problem. Some are easy, others are a bit more tricky. Here we've collected four fixes that have worked for us, from simply shutting down programs to tinkering with Microsoft's Windows Media Creation Tool. If your Start menu isn't working, these fixes should do the trick. 

How to fix the Start menu in Windows 10: Check for corrupt files

Many problems with Windows come down to corrupt files, and Start menu issues are no exception. To fix this, launch the Task Manager either by right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting Task Manager, or hitting Ctrl+Alt+Delete.

Select "Run new task" and run PowerShell by typing "powershell". Make sure you check the option to run this task with administrator privileges.

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Once PowerShell has opened, type "sfc /scannow" and hit Return. Let it run, and if you see the message "Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some (or all) of them", it has found some errors.

To fix them, type "DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth" you'll need to be online, as Windows will download "clean" versions of the corrupted files and replace them. If this doesn't fix your Windows 10 Start menu issues, move on to the next option below.

In this episode of the IT Pro Podcast, co-hosts Adam and Jane sit down with PC Pro associate editor Darien Graham-Smith to discuss the ins and outs of Windows 10, including how it relates to its predecessors, the pros and cons of upgrading, and why you need a solid rollout strategy.

Listen now

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How to fix the Start menu in Windows 10: Kill Explorer

Despite the ominous title, this method doesn't actually involve hunting down the likes of Bear Grylls. Instead, this is a quick-and-dirty fix that may come in handy through a variety of situations, such as when you have non-responsive windows or spurious issues on the Windows desktop it's not guaranteed to work, but it's saved us a bunch of times over the decades we've been tinkering with Windows PCs.

Open Task Manager by either right-clicking on the taskbar, and selecting Task Manager from the menu, or holding down Ctrl+Shift+Escape.

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If a UAC prompt appears, click yes and then click "More details" on the bottom right of the task manager screen.

Head to the "Processes" tab and scroll down until you see "Windows Explorer"

Right-click on the process, and select "Restart" from the menu.

How to fix the Start menu in Windows 10: Rebuild Index

If you're too nervous to try the Media Creation Tool fix below, then it may be worth giving this a go.

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Hold down the Windows Key+R to open the Run window. Type in the following without quote marks: "control /name Microsoft.IndexingOptions".

Click Modify on the bottom left of the Indexing Options window. Click the "Show all locations" button, then untick all the currently ticked locations. Click OK.

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Now click Advanced, then click Rebuild in the Troubleshooting section. A message will pop up saying that this may take some time. Click OK.

Hold down the Windows Key+R to open the Run window again. Now type in "Shutdown -r" without quote marks to reboot your machine.

If this hasn't fixed your reluctant Start menu, it's time to break out the big guns.

How to fix the Start menu in Windows 10: Media Creation Tool

There are a number of now-outdated fixes to the Windows 10 Start menu issue around, but this is the only method that's widely reported to actually fix the problem. So, if you've already made the mistake of embarking on some long-winded fix on a random internet forum that didn't work, then give this a go.

The bad news: it involves downloading Microsoft's Windows Media Creation Tool and creating Windows 10 installation media on a DVD or USB storage device. And it also requires you to reinstall Windows over the top of your existing OS.

The good news? While it is a touch long-winded, it's most likely to fix your issues and no, it won't delete your existing files, although it is worth backing up anything important first. If anything does go wrong, you want to be able to perform a clean install of Windows 10 and restore your data from a backup, rather than have a little cry.

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Go to Microsoft's site and download the correct ISO for your system, which will be either 32-bit or 64-bit.

Create a system installation disk using the Windows Media Creation Tool, then run Setup.exe from the media you've created.

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When you go through the menus, make sure to click "Keep files and applications". This ensures that the installation process will simply update and replace the necessary files, but keep your data and applications.

Make a cup of tea, and wait patiently for a refreshed Windows 10 installation with a working Start menu.

If none of these fixes does the job, however, then you'd be well advised to back up all your data and start a new Windows 10 installation from scratch. Unless your PC or laptop is excruciatingly old and slow, a full reinstallation shouldn't take long. (Just make sure you have your Windows 10 product key to hand!) Oh, and if you have a fast USB thumb drive or external SSD, installing Windows from there is your best bet you'll be done in half an hour or so.

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