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Start Windows without explorer.exe/without taskbar and other stuff


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I'd like to have my Windows starting only MediaCenter/Media Portal on startup, as long as a few softwares in the background (µTorrent, Skype, Soulseek...). I've looked into the registry in Curent_user/Software/Microsoft/WindowsNT/Logon, changed the Shell value to something else, it starts Media Portal instead of Explorer, but then nothing else (all the programs that are supposed to start because they are on msconfig) will start, and then Media Portal just crashes. Is there a way to do what I want to do ?

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Maybe yes, maybe no.

I guess you are actually talking of the:

HKEY_Current_User\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Shell

registry key.

Explorer is the Windows SHELL.

You can normally change it with ANOTHER app that is "thought as" being a replacement SHELL.

You can try to replace it with any other app, but the functionality could be severely compromised.

When Explorer loads, it performs a series of "tasks", including that of loading the items in the Startup folder and/or in the corresponding Registry keys.

Your substitute app may NOT.

You can specify several apps in the "userinit" key, but you'll have to test and tweak them.

Read this only seemingly unrelated article:


And this reference for keys that are involved in the "autostart":




It is well posssible that "MediaCenter/Media Portal" crashes because it is dependent on some service or whatever that Explorer normally starts and that in your configuration is not started.

All in all I would suggest you to use an unobtrusive SHELL replacement, such as blackbox/bblean/bb4win (possibility to have no icons, no bars, no nothing in view) that allows anyway full control on the system (by right clicking anywhere on the desktop) and is highly configurable:



(just a couple of examples, there are tens of such "lean" SHELL alternatives)


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You can also set your shell to something other than explorer.exe, but get similar behavior - it's runonce.exe /alternateshellstartup. If you run that, group policies and run/runonce are parsed, which covers most of the bases. Have that run as a part of a logon script, and you should be OK if you change your shell. You still won't get any functionality from anything that relies on explorer.exe or it's helper dll's loaded, but it will at least run group policy, start apps, etc, that would normally be done by explorer.exe.

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