This happened back on December 24, when I finally gave in and let Windows install updates, despite getting spooked about a few updates that reportedly caused Windows to break in some cases. When Windows restarted after the updates, explorer.exe just launched a folder window instead of anything else. I looked through my logs and saw that a lot of updates did not install, and that the System Restore it tried to do before the updates had failed. In fact, upon trying System Restore, all restore points were gone. There were other symptoms at the time: Networking was down, and I had trouble getting certain Control Panel items to launch. Some services seemed to be broken. Windows would sometimes lock up seemingly randomly. I went into a repair mode command prompt and did a chkdsk and an offline SFC /scannnow, and was told there were no errors on each. So I eventually got around to doing a repair install (doing a fake upgrade using Compatibility mode), which worked without Windows locking up. Even after getting activated again, explorer.exe still will not launch my desktop or start menu. The desktop is just blank (no wallpaper, even), and an Explorer window pops up after I log in. The same thing happens in Diagnostic mode (from msconfig) and in Safe Mode. Creating a new account does not help, either. The other problems I mentioned did seem to be fixed by the repair install, but not the problem with explorer.exe. I have used Google to try and find a solution, but all of them are about explorer.exe not starting. Mine starts. It's explorer.exe is running Task Manager. But it only launches Explorer windows, not the desktop/start menu. I am about to just give in and do a complete reinstall from scratch, but I'd really rather not do that. I'm not really one to actually stop and ask about computers instead of fixing it out myself, but I'm at my wit's end trying to get this straightened out.