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How can I recover my Win98 desktop and task bar?

I am cleaning up unwanted data on my Windows 98 SE, and I deleted files from a root of my C: drive and now my desktop and taskbar are missing. How can I get them back?

The machine boots up and shuts down fine. I just cannot see anything but the background.

It's hard to give you definitive answer without knowing just what you have deleted. The desktop and taskbar are usually displayed by Windows Explorer (explorer.exe), which sits in your Windows directory, not the root of your drive. If you had deleted some of the more crucial files, your system wouldn't boot at all. The best place to start is with your Emergency Boot Disk, which contains many of the required system files Windows needs to load. If you can boot to a full Windows screen, you'll want to check your Recycle Bin and restore the files you've deleted. Another alternative is to pull up the Task Manager in Windows by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del after Windows loads. Go to the File menu in Task Manager, choose New Task (Run) and type Explorer.exe in the window. If this restores your desktop, you'll be able to access the Recycle Bin.

If you can only boot to a command prompt or into Safe Mode (holding down the F8 key while Windows loads) you may be able to see what files are still in your C: directory and compare that with a healthy system. Unfortunately, Windows 98 doesn't have the robust repair options Windows XP does. Your best bet may to simply reinstall Windows 98 using your recovery CD.

This was first published in February 2005

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