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Reinstall or Repair stuck Windows 10 Start Menu & Taskbar, and Fix “Critical Error”

Occasionally, the Start button, Taskbar, and the Notification area icons may get stuck or frozen; clicking them does nothing. When the items in the Notification area are frozen, you wouldn’t be able to access Action Center, Wi-fi network settings, etc.

If the Windows 10 Start Menu is frozen or non-responsive and does not work, or shows the Critical Error message, here is the list of troubleshooting steps you can follow. The fixes involve running the Start menu Troubleshooter or manually registering the ShellExperienceHost & StartMenuExperienceHost packages using PowerShell or restoring the default Start menu by rebuilding the Start menu database.

This article explains how to repair, reset, or reinstall the Start menu in Windows 10.

Reinstall the Start menu (ShellExperienceHost & StartMenuExperienceHost) Manually

  1. Open Task Manager and click the Details tab.
  2. Locate the StartMenuExperienceHost.exe process, and select it.
  3. Right-click StartMenuExperienceHost.exe and click End task. StartMenuExperienceHost.exe process exists only in Windows 10 v1903 and higher.
    Note: In the Processes tab, it would show up as Start
  4. Launch File Explorer and browse this folder:

  5. Right-click PowerShell.exe and click Run as Administrator.
  6. Copy the following command-line, paste in PowerShell window, and press ENTER:
    Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

    Note: If StartMenuExperienceHost.exe is running when the above command is run, you’ll get the following error:

    Add-AppxPackage : Deployment failed with HRESULT: 0x80073D02, The package could not be installed because resources it modifies are currently in use. error 0x80073D02: Unable to install because the following apps need to be closed Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost.
  7. Similarly, run the following command:
    Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

    It should show the message “Deployment operation progress” in the output.

    Note: If you see the message “Get-AppxPackage : Access is denied” after running the above command, then you’ve not started PowerShell as administrator.

This reinstalls or repairs the Start menu and Taskbar (powered by StartMenuExperienceHost and ShellExperienceHost).

Run the Start menu Troubleshooter

Microsoft launched a Start menu troubleshooter diagnostic package that finds and fixes problems with the Start menu and Cortana. This wonderful tool does comprehensive checks to determine what exactly is preventing the Start menu from functioning correctly.

Download Start menu troubleshooter (startmenu.diagcab) from Microsoft and run it.

To apply the fixes automatically, click the Advanced button and enable Apply repairs automatically. But if you just want to do a dry run first uncheck the option.

The Start menu troubleshooter primarily checks if the following potential issues are present:

1. Required applications are not installed correctly

Checks if “Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost” and “Microsoft.Windows.Cortana” applications are installed correctly or not, and reinstalls the packages automatically if required.

In case the troubleshooter can’t reinstall the packages, try reinstalling ShellExperienceHost manually. Scroll down to the bottom of this article for instructions.

2. Permission issues with registry keys

Checks if the current user has permissions to access the following registry key, and fixes the ACLs if required:


3. Tile database is corrupt

The tile database file is located here:


The troubleshooter checks if this file exists, and is currently in use by the logged-on user. If so, it’s taken as a good sign. Otherwise, it deletes the corrupt tile database file and regenerates a new copy.

4. Application manifest is corrupt

Checks if the following manifest file is missing and if the contents of it are empty.


If this file is missing or corrupt, it can cause UI issues in several areas in Windows. As a side note, running SFC and/or DISM should restore the original copy of this file from the source.

Critical Error: Start menu and Cortana

You may sometimes receive one of the following messages at startup:

Start menu and Cortana aren’t working. We’ll try to fix it the next time you sign in.

Critical Error – Your Start menu isn’t working. We’ll try to fix it the next time you sign in.

Follow the troubleshooting methods described above in this article. If they don’t help, try this:

Start Windows 10 in Safe mode, and then restart back in normal mode.

Start Windows 10 in Safe Mode, and then restart back in normal mode. To start in Safe Mode:

  1. Logoff your user account.
  2. Press and hold the Shift key while you press the Power icon and select Restart.
  3. Once you enter the Windows Recovery Environment, click Troubleshoot.
  4. Click Advanced options, Startup Settings, and Restart.
  5. When you see a number of startup options, press 5 or F5 for Safe Mode with networking.
  6. After logging in to your account in Safe Mode, restart the system to return to normal boot.

That works in some cases. But if it doesn’t, and the issue recurs at every startup, use these steps:

Restore Start menu database or Reinstall ALL built-in apps

Restore a fresh copy of the Start menu database, named vedatamodel.edb. You can find more information about that in the article How to Backup the Start Menu Layout in Windows 10?. If restoring a fresh copy of Start menu database doesn’t help, then reinstall all built-in apps using PowerShell. When you do so, it rebuilds the Start menu database automatically.

Start PowerShell as administrator, and run this command:

Get-AppxPackage –allusers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

Restart Windows.

Hope that fixes the non-responsive Windows 10 Start menu and taskbar and fixes the “Critical error”.

(Article last reviewed in Aug 2020. Windows 10 v2004 is the current version as of this review.)

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