This just happened a few days ago. I had done a cleanup to my computer (Dell desktop-98KFCD3) after restart, none of my icons on my desktop would open. When I opened Taskbar, went to processes, I couldn't locate Explorer.exe and file folders were empty. This is quite frustrating...since I know very little about the workings of windows 10 and explorer so I have to search for information. Please inform me of what my procedure to correct this dilemma would be. Thanks for helping. JD
If you have already Rebooted and the problem still exists, you can still try this but I doubt it will help. If you haven't (and dont want to reboot for whatever reason) give it a shot. It won't hurt and may solve your problem
I have had this happen several times. While viruses or malware MAY cause this a more common problem is an app you are running that is "not playing nice with memory". It has happened to me while running something I really don't want to cancel and restart.
This solution is quite simple and DOES NOT Require a REBOOT.
1. Open Task manager (Ctrl - Alt - Dlet),
2. Click Process tab,
3. Find Explorer.exe (or explorer.exe).
4. Terminate it. (ignore warning)
5. Click Applications tab
6. Then New Task.
7. Enter (guess what) explorer.exe and press enter
your desktop and taskbar will reappear (and your long running app will still be running)
It may be that you did something bad when you did your clean up. You could try a System Restore to get things to how they used to be and then try the cleanup again, being careful not to delete any system files.