Bing Chat's depiction of a BSOD on Windows 11 - I guess it figured it's a real clown show..? Its words, not mine!

“Critical Error – Your Start menu isn’t working”

4 min read.

Well this one was a doozy. My Start Menu stopped working. And that wasn’t nice as I kind of need that.

Anyway. Found a couple of ways to try and fix this. One even worked. Wrote them down for your reference (and mine, to be honest). Find them below.

(I asked Bing Chat to create me a picture of BSOD on Windows 11, but the article illustration is what it came up with – it’s not what I asked for, but it IS topical)


The problem was simple, yet annoying. Let me explain.

Something happened to my Windows 11 machine. Probably Windows updates. No idea, really. But suddenly, hitting the Windows key (or clicking on the “Start” button) would NOT bring up the Start Menu, but instead would just throw an error.

Something along the lines of what I pasted below:

Critical Error - Your Start menu isn't working. We'll try to fix it the next time you sign in.

Well that’s great. And in a screenshot?


I ended up being a normie, and only shared a funny picture (as opposed to a screenshot) of this error to a couple of friends on WhatsApp, so that’s all I have to share here as well. Enjoy:

This was such an annoying issue I had to get rid of it as soon as possible. Of all the new features and UIs in Windows 11, Start menu was one of the 2 I liked (the other one being the parts of Settings that actually were updated).

Plus, I use it.

So, what do?


There are a list of possible things to try to fix this. I’ll start with the kosher ones, and finally explain what worked for me (but since it comes with side-effects, I don’t recommend you try it).

Uninstall your latest updates

Hit win+x, select “Settings” and “Windows Update”, and you should be able to select “Uninstall Updates” either directly or from under “Update history”.

Normally I’d just tell you to search for “Uninstall updates”, but if Start menu doesn’t work.. Well. Yeah.

Anyway – from this list, you can see your recent updates and remove them one by one.

The bad thing is that you won’t see all of the updates, as some updates can not be uninstalled. But start with the latest ones, and restart after uninstalling each one.

Uninstall Windows Updates
How to Uninstall Windows Updates

If you’re lucky, this will help. For me, it didn’t, as apparently whatever update was breaking my Start Menu could not be uninstalled.

However – in case this method does work for you, and uninstalling an update fixes your Start menu, you should probably block that update from being ever installed back on your machine again. That can be done using a convenient tool called wushowhide.diagcab that lets you “hide” (read: block) any updates that are waiting to be installed.

Download the app, run it, let it search for updates, and you’ll get to a view somewhat like below:

Make sure you’re choosing the right update package (you’ll recognize it by the KB name) and hit “Next”. It’ll take a while, but you should see something like this after:

Now it’s safe to Close the troubleshooter.

And you should be good to go! That evil update should stay away (until it sneaks back in the next monthly LCU!)

Restore your system to an earlier Restore Point

… This was annoying, but restoring my Windows system to a Restore Point that was created before the latest set of updates was the only thing that worked for me.

Search for “Recovery” and select the item that literally just says “Recovery”. Selecting “Open System Restore” after that, and you should be able to select a recent Restore Point. Pick one that’s from before the last batch of Windows Updates.

Windows will take a moment to restore your earlier configuration, uninstall any offending updates and undo weird configuration changes, and should succeed with a message somewhat like below:

The con of this approach is that it might cause weird, unexplained side effects. It broke my Visual Studio, for example (due to some .NET SDK configuration changes), apparently permanently broke my MAUI dev workflow (reinstalling everything didn’t help) and somehow ended up breaking the icons for some of my Chrome profiles.

I could live with the last item on the list, but the earlier ones cause me some headaches. But having a functioning Start menu is worth not being able to work. Right?

Well, on that disappointing note, that’s all for today.

References and appendices


Should you run “Windows Start Menu Troubleshooter” in Windows 11?

There’s an old Microsoft-provided troubleshooter called “Windows Start Menu Troubleshooter”. A lot of guides online tell you to run it, and it’ll help fix your Start Menu crashes in Windows 11.

This turns out to more likely than not just be a wild goose chase, amounting to nothing but wasting some precious time that you could be spending with your loved ones instead. Or playing Raid Shadow Legends. Or whatever it is that Zoomers do on their phones.

Anyway. The Start Menu Troubleshooter would tell you to reinstall “ShellExperienceHost” and “Cortana” applications. But it’ll probably tell you to install them regardless of whether your Start menu works or not (I just tested) – so don’t bother with that.

The error it’ll output – one that is probably not true if you’re on Windows 11 – looks like this:

"ShellExperienceHost" and "Cortana" applications need to be installed correctly"

This is most likely a lie. You don’t have or need Cortana (on Windows 11), and ShellExperienceHost is probably working just fine.

Should you try to do that, though, you could do it somewhat like below:

Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.Windows.Cortana | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}
Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

Or you can even try to reinstall ALL of your modern apps:

Get-AppXPackage | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

But please don’t bother.

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