Windows Legacy OS forum

General discussion

"Cannot start shell application"?

Every time I boot up my laptop, when Windows XP is starting up I get an error message that simply says "Cannot start shell application" with an "OK" button. This error box always comes up and pauses my whole startup until I click "OK". How do I go about removing this error message?

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: "Cannot start shell application"?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: "Cannot start shell application"?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Possible cause

In reply to: "Cannot start shell application"?

This error message could be caused by several problems. I would first suggest that you open the registry to:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE>SOFTWARE>Microsoft>Windows NT>CurrentVersion>Winlogon. Go to the right hand side and look under the 'Name' column for the word "Shell." Now, look down the 'Data' column for the corresponding string entry which should be "Explorer.exe." There should be nothing else following this name. If there is, it could indicate the presence of a virus which might have been deleted by your AV program(or a program that you removed) thus leaving an orphan startup value. Only the name "Explorer.exe" should be there.

Collapse -
checked explorer.exe

In reply to: Possible cause

I checked the registry like you described, and there was nothing following the explorer.exe line. Is there somewhere else I should check?

Collapse -
Yes, There are several others

In reply to: checked explorer.exe

Hit the 'Start' button, then click on 'Run' and type in "eventvwr.msc /s"(without the quote marks). When the Event Viewer window appears, first click on "Application." Look for any red icons which would indicate an error; double click each red icon and note the error and how many times that particular error occurs and the time of day. Next, do the same thing with "System." Now click on "Security" and look for any "Failure Audit"s; double click each "Failure" audit and note in particular, any "Unsuccessful" logon attempts by system services or unfamiliar work groups/stations, and the date, time, and number of repetitions. Try to remember when you first saw your error message and what you did on your computer just prior to that. Look for a correlating time in the Event viewer errors. You should be able to come up with possibly a hardware(printer, camera, etc.) installation which is missing a needed file.

If the above procedure bears no results, the next step would be to look for a corrupted or missing system file; If that doesn't work, the next step is to go back into the registry and look in two other sections.

Collapse -
checked errors

In reply to: Yes, There are several others

I tried looking through the errors in the event viewer like you described, and i tried looking through the Properties of each one. A few were windows media player related, some were my antivirus program deleting some stuff, and some were described as "fault bucket." i didn't see anything that might have related to installed hardware. where else in the registry should i check?

Collapse -
First, ...

In reply to: checked errors

Check your AV program logs to find out just exactly what was deleted and what has been quarantined, and when; this might be the cause. Check the registry in this location first:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE>SOFTWARE>Microsoft>Windows NT>CurrentVersion>Winlogon>Notify. You will have to open each of the 11 or 12 subkeys. Look for a filename that matches anything that you found in your AV program logs. The next area of the registry to check is HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE>SYSTEM>CurrentControlSet>Services; there are several subkeys that need to be checked in this area.

Popular Forums

Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


This one tip will help you sleep better tonight

A few seconds are all you need to get a better night's rest.