after much time and even more anger... here's what fixed my missing desktop icons and basic windows functions.
1. Copy a known good clean explorer.exe file from the windows folder.
2. Copy a known good clean userinit.exe from c:\windows\system32.
3. Copy these files to a usb flash drive.
4. Rename both files to dot new meaning... explorer.new instead of explorer.exe.
5. Boot dead p.c. into safe mode.
6. Copy each file back to where you got them from... c:\windows (for explorer) And c:\windows\system32 (for userinit.exe)
7. Rebbot machine into safe mode with command prompt only.
8. delete the c:\windows explorer.exe file by typing..
cd\ press enter
cd windows press enter
Now rename the new file explorer.new by typing
ren explorer.new explorer.exe press enter
change to the system32 folder by typing cd system32 press enter
delte userinit.exe type del userinit.exe
rename the new file by typing ren userinit.new userinit.exe press enter
and that's what worked for me.
There was also one other registry setting that had been altered.
And that was located here:
The value for the shell key had been renamed. Instead of it reading Exploere.exe
It read Explor e.exe There was a space in the filename, thus windows would never load that file as it didn't exist.
Hope this helps someone out. It sure was a pain in the butt to fix.
I did run a current version of the Malwarebytes and it came up with no errors.
That's what gave me a hint that these two files had been altered - I checked the time stamp on both files. Date was correct, the time was not.