A recent failure of Windows 10’s power menus is eventually traced to an incompatible shell extension.
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Restoring quick access to Control Panel
Troubleshooting unexpected changes to key Windows functions can be vexing. Recently, the right-click/Start power menu suddenly stopped working on my primary Windows 10 testing system. Odd failures are not uncommon on that machine; it’s subject to frequent tweaks and many third party–application installs/uninstalls. But it appeared that this specific problem was going to be a difficult fix.
And losing the power-menu function was particularly annoying — I use it frequently to load tools such as the Control Panel, Task Manager, and command windows. The problem: When I right-clicked Start and selected any of the power-menu tools, nothing happened. However, I could, for example, enter “control panel” into the search box and access the applet that more-cumbersome way.
At first, I suspected that a Win10 update was the source of the failure. Online solutions included Registry changes, restoring the WinX folder, and other potentially difficult changes. But several posts pointed to a problem with a shell extension — and an easier fix.
Before I detail the actual cause and solution, let’s review what the Windows shell is and its many functions.
As detailed in a Wikipedia article, the shell is your interface with the Windows operating system. The desktop, File/Windows Explorer, and all other visible elements are part of the shell. You manage files and launch applications via the shell, and the many system and application menus are defined by the shell. And right-click context menus — such as the power menu — are also part of the shell.