The Start menu in Windows 10 is one of the most cherished and iconic features of Microsoft’s operating systems. And while it seems strange to have such powerful emotions for a mere software feature, the mass opprobrium against the Start menu-less Windows 8 shows that people will viciously argue for their right to use it. But what if the Start menu stops working?
Whether your Start menu has disappeared, simply isn’t responding to your clicks, or you get the dreaded “Critical Error” message, we’re here to help you with you Start menu woes.
The Obvious Stuff
Whenever you get any kind of error relating to various features in Windows not working, the first thing to do (aside from rebooting your PC) is check for corrupted files using the system file checker which will automatically try to fix any errors in Windows’ system files.
To do this, open the Command Prompt (Win + R, then type
cmd) and type
sfc /scannow. A scan will check Windows for corrupted files, then repair them if possible.
If that fails, still in the Command Prompt, use the “Deployment Imaging and Servicing Management” tool which can repair corruptions that were preventing SFC from doing its job. In the Command Prompt, type:
This will run the DISM tool. After, run another SFC scan to fix any outstanding errors.
If your Start menu’s still not working after this, it’s time to dig deeper.
Fix 1: Make a Registry Tweak
A solution to the Start menu not working cropped up some months ago, and quite a few people are reporting success with it. It’ll require you to tweak your registry, so make sure to back up your registry first.
Once you’ve done that, open the registry editor by hitting Win + R and entering
regedit into the box.
In the registry editor, navigate to the key:
Double-click “Start” in the right-hand pane and change the “Value” here to 4. Reboot your PC and you’re good to go.
Fix 2: Restart Windows Explorer
The next simplest thing to try is restarting the Windows Explorer process which is responsible for the Start menu, among plenty of other things, on Windows 10. Press Ctrl + Shift + Escape on your keyboard to open the Task Manager. Next, click “More details” if you’re in the simple view, then under the “Processes” tab scroll down to “Windows Explorer,” right-click it and click “Restart.”
Fix 3: Run Application Identity Service
The Application Identity Service in Windows 10 uses a service called Applocker to decide which applications are and aren’t allowed to run on your PC. For the most part you don’t need to touch this, as it generally knows what’s right for your PC, but forcing it to run when you’re experiencing the Start menu problem can help fix them.
To run the Application Identity Service, press Win + R, type
services.msc into the box, then in the Services windows right-click Application Identity and click Start. Reboot your PC, and your Start menu should be up and running again.
Fix 4: Stop Sign-in Setting up Device
If you’ve noticed a pattern of your Start Menu misbehaving each time you have a Windows Update, or simply when you restart your PC, then a couple of people have suggested that this could be the solution.
Go to “Settings -> Accounts -> Sign-in” options then scroll down to “Privacy” and switch the “Use my sign-in info…” slider to “Off”. As you’ll discover in the next fix, your Start menu not working could be connected to your Windows account, oddly, so separating your account from your PC startup process can help.
Fix 5: Create New Admin Account
Some people find that their Start menu stops functioning properly after bigger Windows updates. If you’re one of these people, then a tried and tested solution is to create a new Windows admin account, make sure that the Start menu is working on it, then transfer all your files over.
To do this, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager, then click “File -> Run new task” and type
into the box, where “yourname” is what you want to name the account, and “yourpassword” is the password you want for the account. Tick the checkbox to make it an administrator account, then click “OK.”
Log in to the new account. If the Start menu is showing, you’re in business. To transfer your settings and apps over to the new account, log back in to your old account, then go to “Control Panel -> System -> Advanced system settings.” Click the “Advanced” tab, then under “User Profiles” click “Settings.” Select your newly created account from the list and click “Copy To.”
Fix 6: Reinstall Your Windows Apps
Windows apps may have nice features like Skype’s mini-window that lets you talk to people while getting on with other stuff, but they’ve been known to bug out Windows from time to time. Pinning down the app responsible for the mess can take a while, so there is a convenient command in Windows that lets you reinstall every Windows app simultaneously. (It’s almost as if Microsoft was prepared for people to have this problem!)
This is a good chance to get acquainted with the PowerShell, which is essentially a supercharged version of the Command Prompt. Click Start, type
powershell, then right-click PowerShell in the search results and click “Run as administrator.”
Once you’re in, type the following and hit Enter:
You’ll see a load of processes begin, and when it ends, you’ll probably see a lot of red, alarming-looking writing underneath. Ignore that and reboot your PC to get your Start menu working again.
Fix 7: Boot to Safe Mode with Networking
A lot of users have reported that booting Windows to Safe Mode with Networking, then booting back to normal Windows, can fix a broken Start menu.
To boot into Safe Mode from Windows 10, press Win + R, type
msconfig, and then in the System Configuration window click the “Boot” tab, check the “Safe boot” box, click “Network,” then “OK.”
Reboot your PC, and it will start up in Safe Mode in Networking. Go into the System Configuration window just like you did to get into Safe Mode, uncheck the “Safe boot” box, click OK, then reboot your PC, and your Start menu may live again.
Fix 8: Dropbox, Anti-Virus and AMD Graphics Drivers
For a long time Windows 10 users were complaining that Dropbox would clash with the Start menu, blocking certain user account files that were critical to it running properly. Dropbox claims to have addressed this issue in an update released last year, but if you do have Dropbox, it might be worth uninstalling to see if that problem still persists for you.
Problems with AMD cards have been connected to the Start menu not working too, and some users have reported that going to “services.msc” and disabling “AMD External Events Utility” can resolve the issue.
Other users have reported that anti-virus programs like Avast, Malwarebytes, and various third-party Windows Store apps can also cause the problem, so it’s worth uninstalling some of those one by one to see which is the culprit.
We’re Just Getting Started
These are the best-known ways to get your Start menu back in order, though with the problem having so many different possible sources, there’s always a chance that something else has fixed it for you. Has one of our fixes helped you, or have you discovered your own solution to a broken Start menu? Let us know in the comments!
This article was updated in August 2018.