Windows 11 Crashes When Right-Click on Desktop

Published by Nyau Wai Hoe - Updated on

Users of Windows 11 can sometimes face a strange and persistent issue: the unexpected crashing of Windows Explorer (including File Explorer) when attempting to right-click on the desktop. This frustrating issue could come from various sources, including corrupted system files, problematic third-party software that interferes with the context menu, or even recent updates to the operating system. The following article outlines common causes and provides tested solutions to help you regain stability and functionality on your PC.

Also see: Can’t Click Anything on Desktop in Windows 11/10 (Fix)

Windows 11 Crashes When Right-Click on Desktop

Clearing the File Explorer cache

One of the primary suspects behind the Windows 11 Explorer crash is a corrupted File Explorer cache. Like any web browser, File Explorer maintains a cache to speed up the loading of frequently accessed data. However, when this cache gets corrupted, it can lead to instability and crashes, especially during right-click operations on the desktop. Here’s how to clear this cache:

Navigate to the C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\AutomaticDestinations directory. Once there, delete all the files contained within. These files are the ones that store the cache, and though they will be recreated as you use your system, starting fresh can often eliminate the crashing behavior.

Clearing the File Explorer cache

Be aware that this action, while generally safe, will reset the list of frequently used folders and files in your Quick Access. This is a small price to pay for a more stable File Explorer experience. After clearing the cache, restart your computer and verify if the issue persists. If the crash happens again, it may be time to look at other potential causes and solutions.

Linked issue: Windows 11 “New Folder” Missing From Right-Click Menu

Registry edit to restore classic context menu

Some users have found relief from the File Explorer crash by reverting to the classic context menu through a registry edit. When Windows 11 was introduced, it brought along a new condensed “Show more options” context menu, designed to simplify the user interface. However, this change has not been without its issues. In particular, interference from third-party software that adds items to the context menu seems to trigger the right-click crash in some cases.

reg.exe add "HKCU\Software\Classes\CLSID\{86ca1aa0-34aa-4e8b-a509-50c905bae2a2}\InprocServer32" /f /ve

Fix Windows 11 crashes when right-click

This command executed in the Command Prompt, can help resolve the issue by disabling the new context menu. Here’s what this command line actually does:

  • reg.exe add is a command to add a new entry to the Windows Registry.
  • "HKCU\Software\Classes\CLSID\{...}\InprocServer32" specifies the registry path to the key that controls the context menu behavior.
  • /f forces an overwrite of the existing registry value without prompting for confirmation.
  • /ve edits the value of an existing entry without specifying a new value; in this case, it sets the value to empty, which is interpreted by the system to revert to the default context menu behavior.

Pro tip: How to Remove Items from Right-Click Menu in Windows 11

By running this command, you effectively instruct Windows to bypass the new context menu and use the full, classic version by default. This change has helped some users eliminate crashes associated with right-clicking on the desktop, as it avoids whatever conflict is occurring with the new menu interface.

Please keep in mind that editing the registry can be risky, and it’s considered a more advanced troubleshooting step. It’s advisable to back up the registry before making any changes, so you can restore it in case anything goes wrong. Once you’ve applied this registry edit, test the right-click functionality on your desktop to see if it has stabilized.

Related resource: How to Customize Right-Click Menu in Windows 11

To undo the changes and restore the “Show more options” context menu item in Windows 11, you’ll need to delete the specific registry key that was added or modified. The previous command adds a registry entry that affects the context menu behavior. To revert this change, you can simply remove the added registry key. To do this, run the following command in Command Prompt.

reg delete "HKCU\Software\Classes\CLSID\{86ca1aa0-34aa-4e8b-a509-50c905bae2a2}\InprocServer32" /f

Restore show more option in Windows 11

Explorer Patcher: A potential culprit behind crashes

Users who have customized their Windows 11 experience with third-party software like Explorer Patcher may encounter File Explorer crashes related to these modifications. Explorer Patcher is designed to bring back certain features from older versions of Windows, such as the full context menu or the classic taskbar. While it can enhance usability, it may also introduce instability to the system, especially after updates to Windows 11 that may not be immediately compatible with the patcher.

Explorer Patcher

If you are experiencing crashes and have Explorer Patcher installed, consider the following steps:

  1. Temporarily disable Explorer Patcher to test if this resolves the crashing issue. If the system stabilizes, the patcher may be the source of the problem.
  2. If disabling does not resolve the issue, uninstalling Explorer Patcher completely is the next logical step. You can usually uninstall it from the ‘Add or remove programs’ section within the Windows settings or by using an uninstaller provided by the software itself.
  3. After uninstalling, restart your computer and test the right-click functionality once more. If Explorer no longer crashes, you’ve identified Explorer Patcher as the cause.

It’s not uncommon for third-party software to be a little behind when it comes to compatibility with the latest version of Windows. If you find that Explorer Patcher was causing the issue, keep an eye on updates from the developer. They may release a new version that is fully compatible with the latest updates to Windows 11, allowing you to reintroduce your preferred features without compromising system stability.

Performing a clean boot to identify conflicting software

If the issue persists even after clearing the cache and attempting registry edits, another potent solution is performing a Clean Boot. This process can help pinpoint if third-party applications or services running in the background are causing the crash when you right-click on the desktop. A Clean Boot starts Windows with a minimal set of drivers and startup programs, thereby providing a clean environment to test for issues.

Here’s how to perform a Clean Boot in Windows 11:

  1. Type msconfig in the Windows search bar and select the System Configuration utility from the search results.
  2. In the System Configuration window, go to the Services tab.
  3. Check the Hide all Microsoft services checkbox, which will list only third-party services.
  4. Click Disable all to turn off these third-party services temporarily.Clean Boot Windows 11
  5. Next, switch to the Startup tab and click on Open Task Manager.
  6. In the Task Manager under the Startup tab, disable all the startup programs.Disable Startup Programs in Windows 11
  7. Close the Task Manager and click OK on the System Configuration window.

After performing these steps, restart your computer. Upon rebooting, the computer will be in a Clean Boot environment. While in this state, try right-clicking on the desktop. If the crash does not happen, it suggests that one or more background applications are likely the culprits. You can then enable services and startup programs one by one and restart your computer after each change to identify the exact software causing the conflict.

Once you’ve identified the problematic application, you can decide to update it, reconfigure its settings, or uninstall it to resolve the File Explorer crash issue. Remember to reset your computer back to normal startup after this troubleshooting process by re-enabling all services and startup items in the System Configuration utility.

What if right-clicking crashes Windows 11 even in safe mode?

In the event that right-clicking on the desktop continues to crash Windows Explorer, even when operating in Safe Mode, this could point towards deeper issues within the operating system. Safe Mode is designed to load Windows with minimal drivers, settings, and applications. If the problem occurs in Safe Mode, system files or hardware drivers themselves may be at fault.

Here’s what you can do if the crash happens in Safe Mode:

Running System File Checker

System File Checker (SFC) is a built-in Windows utility that scans for and restores corrupt Windows system files. To run SFC:

  1. Right-click on the Start button and select Windows Terminal (Admin) to run it with administrative privileges.
  2. In the terminal window, type sfc /scannow and press Enter to execute the command.SFC scannow successful repair Windows 11

The SFC tool will begin scanning your system for issues and automatically fix any detected corrupt files. This process can take some time, depending on your system’s performance and the extent of the corruption.

Using DISM to repair Windows image

Deployment Image Service and Management Tool (DISM) is another utility that can be used when SFC is unable to fix the problem, or when Windows image files need repairing. To use DISM:

  1. Open Windows Terminal with administrative rights as mentioned earlier.
  2. Execute the following commands in sequence:
    DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth
    DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth
    DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

    Run DISM Windows 11

The first command checks for any corruption flags, the second command performs a more advanced scan, and the third command attempts to repair any issues found. Like SFC, DISM can take some time to complete its process.

Checking for faulty hardware

If software-related solutions do not rectify the crashing issue, it’s important to consider the possibility of faulty hardware. Malfunctioning RAM, an overtaxed CPU, or issues with your hard drive could potentially cause system instability, including Explorer crashes. You can use Windows Memory Diagnostic and other hardware testing tools to check your hardware components for errors.

After attempting these steps, to perform a normal restart and see if the issue has been resolved. If the crashes persist, the problem might be more severe, possibly requiring a system restore, Windows reinstallation, or professional technical support to diagnose potential hardware failures.

Summing up

The recurring issue where right-clicking on the desktop causes Windows Explorer to crash is frequently the result of corrupt system files or clashes with third-party applications. Most users find success in resolving this frustrating problem by clearing the File Explorer cache or by performing a Clean Boot to identify and manage software conflicts. Editing the registry to revert to the classic context menu often provides a temporary fix, while running system scans like System File Checker (SFC) can repair underlying file corruption that may be causing instability.

In situations where these solutions fall short, you should keep a lookout for updates from Microsoft, as they can contain the specific fixes needed to address known bugs. If the crashes significantly hinder day-to-day tasks, some users might choose to roll back to a previous version of Windows 11 or even reinstall their operating system.


Nyau Wai Hoe
Nyau Wai Hoe is the Founder and Chief Editor of WindowsDigitals.com. With a degree in software engineering and over 12 years of experience in the tech support industry, Nyau has established himself as an expert in the field, with a primary focus on the Microsoft Windows operating system. As a tech enthusiast, he loves exploring new technologies and leveraging them to solve real-life problems.

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