I came across an interesting problem the other day – my Windows 7 computer would periodically freeze without any obvious cause.  Eventually I narrowed it down to the fact that explorer.exe froze and hung whenever I did a right-click on an object to bring up the context menu.  The problem occurred with both right-clicking using the mouse and also with using the context-menu key on the keyboard so I knew it wasn’t a mouse driver issue.  The next place I checked was the Windows registry, by starting up regedit.exe and going to the following location in the registry:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT*shellexContextMenuHandlers

First I exported that registry key to a backup file so I could restore it afterwards.  Then I removed the folders under that registry key one by one, checking after each one whether a right-click still froze explorer.exe.  In the end I had removed them all and the problem still persisted, so I restored the copy of the registry key I had exported earlier.

After some searching I hit lucky when I came across ShellExView by Nirsoft.  The software is available for free download from http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/shexview.html and is a very handy utility.  The viewer is a simple looking program that shows you all of the shell extensions installed on your computer – there are probably more than you think.

The basic approach here is to disable the extensions one by one until the problem is solved.  However that approach could take considerable time so a more strategic approach will usually pay dividends.  First I started with the entries of type “context menu” as that seemed to be the source of the freezing, and I ignored those extensions published by Microsoft.  Then I went through the half-dozen that were left, disabling them one at a time.  Once I disabled the shell extension for the most recently installed piece of software the problem was resolved and I was able to right-click in Windows explorer without it freezing.

Hopefully this post will help you if you encounter similar issues.  New Signature has many years of experience with troubleshooting Windows systems, so if you need additional help please do give us a call.