A while ago, I started having trouble with my icons under Windows 98. Whenever I opened the Start menu, the Start menu crashed, taking down any running instances of Windows Explorer or Internet explorer and most of the icons in my system tray. It also cleared weird stripes of pixels from my desktop. I had to shutdown my computer by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete and then Alt-S to avoid opening the Start menu.
This was very annoying but survivable until recently. One day, opening one of my desktop folders caused the same problems. Then the next day, opening Windows Explorer did the same. It's pretty hard to get anything done without Windows Explorer. I reluctantly started preparing to reinstall Windows.
While morosely trolling through the Web, I found a suggestion to recreate the icon cache. I had done this before to fix a problem with missing and randomly changed icons and had thought I had tried it for this problem as well but, having little to lose, I gave it a shot. I deleted the cache file Windows\ShellIconCache and rebooted. That fixed everything!
This problem has been reported on many Web sites for missing or changed icons but I haven't seen anything about this particular symptom, where a corrupt icon cache was causing programs to crash.
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