by: Helge, published: Aug 9, 2013, in

Contest: Why Is This Desktop Empty?

I just had a situation where I was facing an empty desktop with no way to logoff, start a program or do anything else. The only thing left to do was to log the session off from an admin session. This got me thinking: how many ways are there to create such a situation? I am writing down all the ways I know of and ask everybody to contribute. Can you come up with a way to end up with a completely empty desktop I and no one else thought of before?

This is what I am talking about:

Empty published desktop

My Solutions

Explorer Killed

If you kill Explorer and have no other graphical application running, you are left with a blank screen.

Please note that if the shell is not stopped manually but crashes instead, it is restarted by default. This is governed by the registry value AutoRestartShell.

Custom Shell Closed

You can specify a custom shell through the Group Policy setting Custom User Interface. Such a shell is run on top of the default background – and can be closed by pressing ALT+F4 or by clicking the red cross in the application’s upper right corner (if available). After closing the custom shell application all that remains is the background.

Nice Try, But Does Not Work

Configuring an Invalid Custom Shell

This is tempting, but the developers at Microsoft are not stupid enough to fall for this one: specifying a custom shell through group policy that does not exist; in other words, specifying something like kasjdfljskdf. If you do that, the regular shell (Explorer.exe, of course) will come up.

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