Fix: Slow Right Click and Explorer Crashes Caused by Shell Extensions

Symptoms

  • When you right-click a file/folder, there may be a huge delay before Windows displays the context menu.
  • When you try to empty Recycle Bin, it opens another application instead.
  • When you select multiple files, right-click and click Open / Print nothing happens. Whereas, it works when a single file is selected.
  • Error message “Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience” when you right-click a folder.
  • Right-click is extremely slow only when the network card is enabled.
  • When you right-click on a folder and choose Properties, nothing may happen.
  • Right-click menu turns ugly (classic look) after installing older version of Notepad++
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP) error occurs when Windows Explorer or Control Panel is launched.
  • Nothing happens when you click Slideshow or Print in the Tasks pane or File Explorer Ribbon.
  • When you click “Set up backup” or click “Change settings” in Windows 7 Backup and Restore, nothing happens or the System32 folder opens.
  • When you right-click Start to access the Win+X (Power User) menu in Windows 10, none of the shortcuts work. Whereas they work correctly from the Win+X shortcuts folder.
  • Right-click context menu “Run as Administrator” not working.

Cause

A poorly coded context menu handler shell extension added by a 3rd party program may be causing any of the above symptoms. A context menu handler is a type of shell extension that adds commands to your right-click menu. For example, the entries “Scan with Windows Defender”, “Set as Desktop Background” etc., you see in the right-click menu are context menu handers included by default in Windows. Likewise, 3rd party programs may add their own extensions.

As context menu handlers can load from many different areas in the registry, it can be a difficult task for an end-user to pinpoint which extension is causing the problem.

Troubleshoot Right Click Issues Caused by Shell Extensions

ShellExView from Nirsoft is an excellent tool to view and manage all installed shell extensions. It displays the file description, version, company information, location, file name and more. This tool helps you effortlessly disable an extension that you don’t need. This tool can be used to determine the problematic shell extension.

Effective usage of ShellExView to resolve right-click problems

Download ShellExView from Nirsoft.net and run it. It scans the registry for all the shell extensions.

troubleshoot right click Issues Caused by Shell Extensions - shellexview

From the Options menu, click Hide All Microsoft Extensions to enable the tick mark on it. This prevents you from accidentally disabling a built-in Windows shell extension.

troubleshoot right click Issues Caused by Shell Extensions - shellexview

This lists all the third-party shell extensions installed on your system.

troubleshoot right click Issues Caused by Shell Extensions - shellexview

Shell extensions are of different types — e.g., icon handler, overlay handler, context menu, etc. Since we’re dealing with a right-click issue in Windows, we’re particularly interested in context menu handlers.

Sort the results using Type, so that the Context Menu handlers are displayed together.

Next, disable the Context Menu handlers one at a time. Or even better, disable first half of the items displayed.

Once disabled an item or group of items, use the Restart Explorer Ctrl + E option to restart the shell to verify if that solves the problem. If disabling one or a group of items does not solve the problem, enable the item(s) back, and disable the next set of non-Microsoft context menu handlers in the bottom half, and restart Explorer.

tips bulb iconAn even quicker method is to bisect the list of context menu handlers into two groups, disabling half of the entries at a stretch, rebooting and testing the behavior again.A Windows user named JClarke commented:

“You can disable them …they say “one at a time” and see what effect it has on the problem. I did it a lot quicker by bisecting the list, disabling half of the entries in one fell swoop, rebooting and trying the right click. It worked, so I knew I just had to narrow it down, just as we used to do with msconfig. Then I kept bisecting the list until it was just a few and did those one at a time. The problem is that you have to reboot between tries to get accurate testing of the results of your disabling. I didn’t find logging off to be consistent.”

Do this until the issue is resolved and finally you should be able to identify the offending context menu handler shell extension.

Note: It’s not always the Context menu handler, but a PropertySheet handler or an Icon Handler may be the culprit sometimes. Some readers have reported that the Property Sheet handler “IIS W3ext Module” was responsible for the folder properties issue, in a computer running an older version of Windows. In another peculiar case, the system file shimgvw.dll itself was the culprit. These modules don’t exist in Windows 10, anyway.

The Explorer shell loads extensions of the following types:

  • Column Handler
  • Context Menu
  • Copy Hook Handler
  • Data Handler
  • Drag & Drop Handler
  • Drop Handler
  • Icon Handler
  • Icon Overlay Handler
  • InfoTip Handler
  • Preview Handler
  • Property Handler
  • Property Sheet
  • Search Handler
  • Shell Folder
  • ShellExecute Hook
  • Thumbnail Handler

Context menu handlers are loaded when you right-click on a file or folder, or even when you double-click on a file or folder. By disabling unwanted context menu handlers, you can avoid explorer.exe crashes and right-click delays.

Fixing the problem manually using Registry Editor

If you decide to troubleshoot this problem without using ShellExView or similar tools, here is some background information on how to go about it. That said, this is only for advanced users who are comfortable with using the Registry Editor.

First, observe when does the problem occur. When right-clicking a particular file type? Or all file types? Or only when right-clicking on folders?

Context menu handlers can load from any of these areas:

Location Description
HKCR\*\shellex\contextmenuhandlers Files
HKCR\AllFileSystemObjects\shellex\contextmenuhandlers Files and File folders
HKCR\Folder\shellex\contextmenuhandlers Folders (virtual and real)
HKCR\Directory\shellex\contextmenuhandlers File folders
HKCR\[ProgID]\shellex\contextmenuhandlers File class
HKCR\Directory\Background\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers Desktop & Folder background
HKCR\SystemFileAssociations\[.file_ext]\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers Files
HKCR\SystemFileAssociations\[PerceivedType]\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers Files of a certain type (“Perceived type”)
desktop.ini Folder (per-folder context menu)

Note: HKCR is the short name for HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT registry node.



If any of the previously explained symptoms occur when you deal with a folder, then you may need to inspect the context menu handlers loaded in these areas (AllFileSystemObjects, Folder, Directory). If it’s only for a .txt file, inspect the handlers installed for the file class of  .txt (HKCR\txtfile). See how to map a file extension to ProgId.

Under the ContextMenuHandlers registry key, you may see one or more subkeys, each key represents a context menu handler shell extension. The keys may have a proper label or contain a GUID as the name.

troubleshoot right click Issues Caused by Shell Extensions - shellexview

The GUIDs can be looked up on the web, or from the HKCR\CLSID\{GUID}\InProcServer32 registry location to know the corresponding program and the .dll file name.

Open Registry Editor and backup the selected branch, delete the context menu handlers one at a time to test. After every registry change, you must restart the Explorer shell for the changes to take effect. This is where the ShellExView is handy. It includes the Ctrl + E shortcut to restart explorer.

Slow right-click only on networked computers?

In some cases, not related to shell extensions, the right-click menu may be extremely slow to appear when a system is connected to a network. And, disabling the wi-fi adapter or the ethernet connection may restore the normal right-click functionality back. As said earlier, this is a non-shell extension issue usually caused by adding a context menu option pointing to a program located on a network share.

Assuming that WinZip is placed in a shared location or file server, when the user launches WinZip from the network share and enables WinZip Shell integration on their system, the registry entry will point to a file in the network location, such as:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\WinZip\shell\open\command

With the (default) value assigned the following:

\\192.168.0.8\programs\winzip.exe "%1"

With the above setting, if the file server or the networked computer which hosts the program, is turned off, and when you right-click on a file on your computer, you’ll see a huge delay. And some of the following symptoms can be observed.

  • Sometimes, you’ll experience slow right-click, only for the first time after a fresh restart.
  • You’ll also see some packets are transferred via the network (Taskbar notification icon.)
  • In some systems, you may also notice that disabling the DHCP Service speed up the right-click menu display.

How do you find the registry entries pointing to files on a network share?

Using ShellMenuView

ShellMenuView is another tool from Nirsoft which lists the static context menu items (non-shell extensions) from the registry. This tool can help you disable/enable menu items or jump to the corresponding registry key using the Registry Editor.

Launch ShellMenuView and let it populate the items.

troubleshoot right click Issues Caused by Shell Extensions - shellmenuview

Sort by the Filename column to quickly identify UNC paths pointing to a networked computer, or mapped network drive-letters.

Right-click on the entry and click Disable Selected Items to disable the menu item from appearing. To remove the entry altogether, right-click on the item and click Open in RegEdit

This takes you to the relevant branch in the Registry Editor. Backup the key by exporting to a .reg file, and then delete the branch.

Using RegScanner

Another option is to use the RegScanner utility from Nirsoft. RegScanner is a small utility from Nirsoft that allows you to scan the registry, find the desired Registry values that match to the specified search criteria and display them in one list. After finding the Registry values, you can easily jump to the right value in RegEdit, simply by double-clicking the desired Registry item. You need to search the registry values whose data field begins with the string \\ (UNC path)

Run RegScanner and configure the search options as below:

troubleshoot right click Issues Caused by Shell Extensions - regscanner
Click the Scan button. Sort the search results by Data column and find entries containing the network share — UNC path or a mapped drive letter.

troubleshoot right click Issues Caused by Shell Extensions - regscanner

Now you know the entry that’s causing the right-click delay. Go to that particular location in Regedit, backup the corresponding key(s), and then delete the offending key(s).

Hope this guide was helpful for you to fix slow right-click problems, explorer crashes, and other performance issues caused by context menu handlers in Windows.

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in Windows — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP (2003-2012) who contributes to various Windows support forums.

1 thought on “Fix: Slow Right Click and Explorer Crashes Caused by Shell Extensions”

  1. Many thanks for your help. This problem was bugging me for months. My problem was caused by the shell extension Compare It (by Grig software).

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