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Right-click is slow or weird behavior caused by context menu handlers

Published: June 2004
Updated  : Marc 2011
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Symptoms

  1. When you right-click a file/folder, there may be a huge delay before Windows displays the context menu.
  2. When you try to empty Recycle Bin (from Common Tasks), it opens Quick Finder instead.
  3. When you click Play All in the Music or Videos folder Common Tasks, nothing may happen.
  4. When you select multiple files and right click and open / print nothing happens. Whereas, selecting a single file in explorer and right click and open / print, it works fine.
  5. When you right-click a folder in the Start Menu and choose Open or Explore, nothing may happen. (Whereas, it works fine in Windows Explorer.)
  6. Error message "Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience" when you right-click a folder.
  7. Right-click is extremely slow only when the network card is enabled.
  8. When you right-click on a folder and choose Properties, nothing may happen.
  9. Your image editing program does not start when you click the Edit button in Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.
  10. Data Execution Prevention (DEP) error occurs when Windows Explorer or Control Panel is launched.
  11. Nothing happens when you click Slideshow or Print in the Tasks pane in Windows Vista.
  12. Unable to launch applications (mainly Windows Installer shortcuts) from the recent programs list in the Windows Vista Start menu.
  13. Device Manager link in the tasks pane does not work in Windows Vista
  14. When you click "Set up backup" or click "Change settings" in Windows 7 Backup and Restore, nothing happens or the System32 folder opens.

Cause

These problems are caused by a bad context menu handler. A context menu handler is a shell extension handler that adds commands to an existing context menu (Example: cut, copy, paste, print, Scan with Norton etc). A poorly coded context menu handler may be causing any of the above symptoms. As context menu handlers can be added in different areas (file class, folder, allfilesystemobjects, HKCR\* registry keys), it's a difficult task for an end-user to pinpoint which shell extension is causing the problem.

Resolution

This article describes the two methods to identify the problematic shell extension. Method 1 involves direct registry editing, which is for advanced users. Method 2 is user-friendly and suits most users (recommended method)

Method 1 is for advanced users. If you are not confident about dealing with registry, proceed to Method 2.

Method 1

First, isolate the problem. Observe when the problem occurs. While right-clicking a particular file type? While right-clicking Folders? While right-clicking all file types? As said earlier, context menu handlers can load from any of these areas:

Registry Key Description
HKCR \*\shellex\contextmenuhandlers Files
HKCR\AllFileSystemObjects\shellex\ contextmenuhandlers Files and file folders
HKCR\Folder\shellex\contextmenuhandlers Folders
HKCR\Directory\shellex\contextmenuhandlers File Folders
HKCR\<ProgID>\shellex\contextmenuhandlers File class
HKCR\Directory\Background\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers Desktop

If any of the symptoms occur when you deal with a folder, then you may need to inspect the context menu handlers loaded in these areas (AllFileSystemObjects, Folder, Directory). If it's only for a .txt file, inspect the file class of .txt file (HKCR\txtfile). Open Registry Editor and backup the selected branch, delete the context menu handlers one-by-one.

Related article Manage the context-menu entries for folders, drives and Namespace objects

Method 2 - Using ShellExView to determine the Context-menu causing the problem

shellexview.JPG (54542 bytes)ShellExView (by Nir Sofer) is an excellent tool  to view and manage all installed shell extensions. If available, it displays the description, as well as version details, company information, location, file name and more. You can optionally disable/enable any item, which can be very useful to disable an extension, that you don t need or that has been left behind in your right click menu from a previous software install.

Effective usage of ShellExView to resolve right-click problems

Download ShellExView (from nirsoft.net) and run it. It will scan the registry for all the shell extensions. Once the scan is over and the list is displayed, you need to spot the context menu handlers. Sort the results using "Type", so that the context menu handlers are displayed together.

The rule is to disable non-Microsoft context menu handlers *one-by-one* and verify if the problem is solved. If disabling one does not solve the problem, undo the disabled item and disable the next non-Microsoft handler. Do the same until the problem is solved and finally identify the culprit. Scroll right to see the Company Name column in ShellExView.

Even more quicker method is to bisect the list of context menu handlers into two groups, disabling half of the entries at a stretch, rebooting and testing the behavior again. JClarke commented on this article:

You can disable them ...they say "one at a time" and see what effect it has on the problem. I did it a lot quicker by bisecting the list, disabling half of the entries in one fell swoop, rebooting and trying the right click.

It worked, so I knew I just had to narrow it down, just as we used to do with msconfig. Then I kept bisecting the list until it was just a few and did those one at a time. The problem is that you have to reboot between tries to get accurate testing of the results of your disabling. I didn't find logging off to be consistent.

Problems when you right-click an empty area in the Desktop?

If you have a problem when you right-click on a blank area on the Desktop, then you need to inspect the handlers in this registry key. (ShellExView v1.14 and later versions enumerate the items from this location)

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT \ Directory \ Background  \ shellex \ ContextMenuHandlers

The only handler present by default (in a clean XP installation) is the New handler. If you find any additional sub-keys there, it may have be added by third-party applications. Usually, the software that comes with your graphic card adds entries to the above location. Here is one instance, an article from the Intel Graphics Controller website.

Thanks to Cliff for sending this link:

Intel® Graphics - Removing the custom desktop right click context menu

NOTE:  It's not always the Context menu handler,  but a PropertySheet handler or an Icon Handler may be the culprit sometimes. Some readers have reported that the Property Sheet handler "IIS W3ext Module" was responsible for the folder properties issue (See Case:8 in the Symptoms section above), in a Windows XP Professional system, and that reinstalling IIS from Add/Remove Windows Components fixed the problem.

In one peculiar case, the system file shimgvw.dll (Shell Image Verbs - {e84fda7c-1d6a-45f6-b725-cb260c236066}) itself causing the problem. In case of system files, try running sfc /scannow to fix the problem.

Related articles

  1. Right-click is extremely slow only when Network is enabled
  2. "Play All" link in the Common Tasks does not work
  3. Working with Context menus, Open With and Send To
  4. Problem caused by adding Copy To and Move To as context menu entries

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