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Tray icons become dysfunctional after killing explorer

Super User Asked by Ally on November 29, 2020

I’m currently running Windows 10 Enterprise (1909) on a Lenovo Yoga x390 laptop. Recently it’s been encountering some issues which have required me to force kill explorer: various icon issues, Windows Explorer issues which I’ve experienced when using Windows 10 anyway across all versions – I digress.

The most recent issue I’ve encountered is with the Windows 10 Tray Icons – or some of them. The two in particular at the moment are the WiFi icons and the Volume Control icons. After killing explorer, the two icons are still visible but become completely dysfunctional: Neither left clicking nor right clicking evoke any response from the usual Windows UI. Additionally, when the settings for either of these are changed, the new values are not reflected in the icons (i.e. WiFi network, current volume).

I’ve made the following related observations:

  • Every other tray icon works – all collapsed icons are able to be expanded with the up arrow icon. Keyboard language, notification area and Windows Ink Workspace are functional, along with all non-Windows tray icons.
  • Re-killing explorer does not resolve the issue.
  • Logging off and logging back on does not resolve the issue.
  • Starting explorer as admin does not resolve the issue.
  • Restarting is the only fix I can find.
  • I’ve run sfc and have found no issues. It looks like a process issue.

At present, formatting or reimaging my laptop is not an option for me.

One Answer

I might of added this answer as a comment, but I wanted to ensure it was formatted legibly.

SFC is the last command to run. To find and repair issues with Windows, run all 3 of these commands in an elevated prompt (as Administrator) in this order:

DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Scanhealth
DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth
sfc /scannow

In my experience, it is pretty rare to have to restart Explorer these days. It used to be a lot more prevalent before Windows 10. That isn't to say it never happens, but it should be exceedingly rare. That also isn't saying that everything shouldn't come back to working 100% after restarting Explorer, as your taskbar should work just fine regardless of how many times you restarted Explorer.

Therefore, I would be trying to identify and repair the reason why you would have to restart Explorer in the first place, rather then identify and fix issues caused by restarting Explorer. Fix that root cause of your problems, and then if you wish to continue troubleshooting the restart explorer issue, you can do that. But, with the knowledge that you don't have any other underlying issues that may be contributing to the problem.

If you go back to troubleshooting Explorer, check Event Viewer for any clues regarding issues Windows may be encountering when trying to start Explorer back up.

For the volume control, you can also try to restart the Windows Audio service and see if that repairs your volume control.

Answered by Jim Diroff II on November 29, 2020

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