Fix It: Opening Control Panel Crashes Windows Explorer on XP/Vista

In Fix It, General, Microsoft, Software by Michael Sheehan43 Comments

explorer_stoppedHave you ever tried to open your Control Panel on Windows XP (or Vista) and every time that you attempted it, you received a “Windows Explorer has Stopped Working” message and your entire Windows environment loses all of its functionality? It can be very bothersome and extremely annoying.

This happened to me the other day and there wasn’t a very good explanation or fix anywhere (unless you do a lot of digging through forums and such). So I have done the research for you and found some work-arounds and fixes to get your control panel behaving the way it should.

I described the symptoms above, you try to open the Control Panel and your Explorer just stops working or crashes. Unfortunately, sometimes the Windows Event Log doesn’t capture the cause or culprit, only the result (e.g. Windows, not Internet Explorer, crashing – that is the screen shot to the below).


Most likely what has happened is that one of the items contained in the Control Panel has become corrupted, either due to an update or something else. In my particular case, I was on Windows XP and the Control Panel item in question was a control panel named “igfxcpl.cpl”. Googling it didn’t produce much that I could go with but eventually, I came up with the generic way to troubleshoot the problem.

In order to figure out which Control Panel item is the one causing problems, follow these steps.

  1. Navigate to “c:/Windows/System32/” (or whatever drive letter contains your Operating System)
  2. Sort the column by “type
  3. Scroll down to the items that show “.cpl” extensions (you may have to enable the viewing of extensions) or look under the Type column for “Control Panel Item
  4. Now you start a manual process of double clicking on each control panel item. There are then 2 options:
    1. If the Item opens properly, that Item is ok
    2. If you encounter an error when opening one, that is the Item in question
  5. Once you have identified the item that is crashing, you can do a series of things:
    1. Google the full name of the Item and figure out what it does. Then think back to see if you recently installed something that may use it. You may have to either uninstall what you had installed or find a new item to install on top of it.
    2. Rename it (e.g., I added a “.bak” extension to it)
    3. Delete or move it (only do this if you know what the Item is and if you plan on replacing it somehow)
  6. Once you delete, rename or replace the item, try opening up the Control Panel again. If it still crashes, you may have another item or some other type of problem. If the Control Panel opens successfully, you are good to go.

The interesting thing is, I went back to try to test the bad Control Panel item later, and when I renamed it back, it launched just fine. I believe that while I had it named as a .bak file, I did a Windows Update and that there was an update that may have corrected the issue. Since Windows thought that the item was not present, it found the appropriate item and re-downloaded the item. (Of course, I could just be hallucinating.)

Please drop me a note to let me know if this worked for you.

Did you find this solution useful? If so:

HTD says: This should work but be sure you don’t delete anything unless you have a backup or know what it is.