April 7, 2008

Thumbnails Kill Explorer.exe Dead

By Daniel

Summary: Explorer crashes can be caused by malformed thumbnails, and prevented by disabling Data Execution Prevention for Explorer.exe.

WTL writes that quite frequently, while browsing files on his computer in Explorer, an error message pops up reading “Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience.” Having encountered a similar problem myself years ago, I suggested he turn off DEP, or Data Execution Prevention, for Windows Explorer. He has since written back that the instructions I gave him worked to perfection and he has had no more issues with crashing. To work, then.

1. Click Start -> Control Panel
2. Click “Classic View” if applicable, and then double click “System”
3. Under System Properties, Click “Advanced”
4. Click “Performance Options”, then click “Data Execution Prevention”
5. You should see two radio buttons, click the one labeled “Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select:” and then click Add below it.
6. In the dialog box that opened up, type “C:\Windows\explorer.exe” in the location field and hit Enter.
7. You should now have one item in the list of DEP exceptions, named Windows Explorer.
8. You’re done!

To the best of my knowledge, the crashes are caused by certain thumbnails either being corrupted, or they make use of certain codecs that Windows does not allow the automated access of. Thus, when Windows sees unauthorized access of a program, it assumes the worst and intervenes, closing Explorer to prevent a virus from wreaking havoc. A good idea in theory, but also leads to some false positives like this.