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Sometimes the Explorer.exe process hangs. When that happens, parts of the Windows shell can be inaccessible. In Windows 7 and earlier versions, you can select this process and click End Task, then enter Explorer in the File, Run box to restart it.
The new Windows 8 Task Manager makes itr possible to restart this process with one click. When you click Windows Explorer from the list under the Process heading, the button in the lower right corner is different from the one you see with any other process. Instead of End Task, it reads Restart. Click to kill the current Explorer.exe process and start a fresh instance.