Start Menu items/shotcuts and Start Menu search ability on multiple workstations RRS feed

  • Question

  • 2/13/2014 our IT department began to receive complaints of missing programs. After investigation of a few users we were able to determine that the programs existed but all shortcuts and items from the start menu had been completely removed. In addition the searching feature of the start menu was not functional. This happened to about 90% of our environment and the catalyst seemed to be Windows updates or at least occurred after the auto reboot initiated by Windows Updates.  The only items visible in start menu were items added after the fact, internet explorer, magnifier, command prompt, and notepad. All other items, folders, and the ability to search installed programs or folders were completely removed. However all programs are present in the program files folders. THe start menu folder in program data was empty except for the aforementioned items. Additionally properties of start menu had all necessary checks in boxes such as search program files and folders etc. Also show hidden items and folders is enabled for many users so the items were not hidden but gone. And the biggest kicker of all was after a full domain investigation into the issues we found that the majority of our windows server platforms, primarily 2008, were also affected and system restore is unavailable. This conflicts with our idea that Windows Updates caused this since our servers get their updates on a manual initiated basis by their admins which we have not performed as of yet for this month. This caused me to begin looking at SCCM SCEP as all systems have System Center Endpoint Protection and received definition updates. Also accessing different user profiles or even a new profile did not make a difference, issue still present.

    Due to the enormous inconvenience we sent out a company wide email asking users to perform system restores to get us in a stable state. A system restore to the day before Windows updates (second Wednesday of every month configured by SCCM SCUP) restored the start menu items.

    On a multitude of machines IT performed troubleshooting and system restores recording the changes removed and added. We then, on a healthy machine, started to apply the windows updates and SCEP (antivirus) definitions 1 by 1 with out success of replicating the issue. Next we performed a system wide antivirus full scan and did not find any viruses. This is obviously not a system criticle issue bringing us down but is a huge concern for us in IT as it happened company wide and caused a large flux of tickets and some down time for non-technical users. We most definitely want to know the cause and after several days of investigation and troubleshooting Im turning to the Microsoft community for help.

    I know I categorized this as a Windows 7 issue and its affecting windows server 2008, 2003, and 7, but I did not see a forum for all windows platforms. Since the majority of affected users are Windows 7 I opened it here.

    So to summarize in a bulleted format:

    Issue: Wide spread issue affecting around 60-70 users and servers, all profiles, were all start menu items save one or two system defaults were removed. Additionally the searching feature for the start menu looks to be broken as programs exist in program files and are unsearchable from start menu. IT was also affected and I remain affected until I find the cause.

    Investigation and Troubleshooting:

    • Start menu properties: nothing has changed and search options are enabled.
    • Missing items are not hidden, hiding and unhiding does nothing and folder options show hidden files is checked.
    • Program data start menu location is indeed empty as well as user app data start menu location
    • No group policy's are in place altering start menu items and no group policy changes were made as of recent
    • No SCCM packages pushed company wide in last month or pushed individually
    • Windows Updates occurred on windows 7 machines only before the issue occurred and computers restarted and the issue surfaced
    • System Center Endpoint Protection Antivirus updates and definitions deployed just before the occurrence with windows updates. SCEP def updates happen on all windows boxes to include servers
    • Paint.exe was completely missing from system32 folder for some users machines to include my own
    • System restore to that morning before restarts or previous day fixes the issue for windows 7 users
    • No windows updates were initiated on any servers
    • Servers were also affected with windows 7 machines
    • About half the users affected had corrupt Microsoft Office 2013 Pro Plus Click to Run installations and for some the system restore did not fix this and we had to re-install office for around 10 users
    • SCEP antivirus did not catch any viruses that could cause this, I performed MBAM scans on a handful of machines and didn't find anything either.
    • Re-creating start menu shortcuts works
    • Happened to two of our companies locations NH and MA, all part of the same domain but different LANS of course. Companies are interconnected by MPLS connection.

    I combed through SCCM to see if anything deployed and found nothing. Currently I have SCUP updates and SCEP updates disabled. I will post a list of Windows Updates that occurred when the issue occurred as well as the SCEP updates. I have read all the threads about this types of issues and tried all steps without success. Googling the issue also did not rear results.


    Thursday, February 20, 2014 8:05 PM

All replies

  • Hi,

    I would like to suggest you try these steps to figure out what could be causing this problem.

    1. Run Troubleshooter

    Open the Search and Indexing troubleshooter


    2. Create a new library and include fewer folders for test purpose. Now search for a file from that folder. See if it works.

    Create a new library


    3. Try to rebuild search indexing. Refer the steps from the following article.


    Also you may use the System File Checker tool (SFC.exe) to check the issue. The sfc /scannow command scans all protected system files and replaces incorrect versions with correct Microsoft versions.

    How to use the System File Checker tool to troubleshoot missing or corrupted system files on Windows Vista or on Windows 7


    In addition, you may refer to the following Microsoft TechNet article for the Windows Search related Group Policies.

    Group Policy for Windows Search


    Hope it helps.


    Blair Deng

    Blair Deng
    TechNet Community Support

    Monday, February 24, 2014 1:51 AM
  • Thanks Blair.

    We have performed all of the steps described. The indexing/searching features are enabled and I don't see any changes there and after attempting .the troubleshooter windows finds no troubles. The issue is any previous items are unsearchable (previous being pre-windows updates/issue occurrence). Any items accessed after the fact (post issue occurrence) or created after the fact are searchable, index, and in the start menu.

    From our depts. stance at this point we are open to repair suggestions but are truly seeking the root cause (virus, windows update, Endpoint protection definition). If we can inadvertently find the cause from a fix/repair solution great and we are all ears!

    Also the larger issue, than the searching which will likely resolve with the restore of start menu items, is the fact that all start menu items are wiped out to include admin tools, we can re-create the associations but would need to do so on around 100 machines so this is not a viable solution.

    Today I also discovered that the affected computers can not right click Computer >Manage and access computer management console. This is odd, and equally odd is the missing paint.exe from the system32 folder. 

    I have a handful of windows 7 machines that users dont need that I have not fixed with system restore to troubleshoot with and all of our servers as they do not have system restore capability's. Im working on a list of windows updates that were applied, however servers did not receive windows updates so I will also include definition updates and any virus discovered and quarantined in the month of feb.


    Thursday, February 27, 2014 3:57 PM
  • Results for sfc /scannow system file checker:

    C:\Users\mspaulding>sfc /scannow

    Beginning system scan.  This process will take some time.

    Beginning verification phase of system scan.
    Verification 100% complete.

    Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired
    them. Details are included in the CBS.Log windir\Logs\CBS\CBS.log. For
    example C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log

    The first scan on my workstation advised it has repaired the files the second scan indicates it cannot repair the same files the first scan advised it repaired. I ran this 3 times and now it advises all files are repaired each time.

    However all issues persist no fix no change. I will run the scan on one of my servers as well:

    C:\Users\sccmadmin>sfc /scannow

    Beginning system scan.  This process will take some time.

    Beginning verification phase of system scan.
    Verification 100% complete.

    Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired
    them. Details are included in the CBS.Log windir\Logs\CBS\CBS.log. For
    example C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log

    looks like it found the same files but repaired them


    Thursday, February 27, 2014 5:40 PM
  • Hi,

    Thank you for your update.

    May be users' START menu\All Programs folders along with desktop shortcuts to a random temp location, as such, please make certain you don't run any temp file removers or disk cleanup which is built into Windows.

    They May be found in a folder named smtmp inside: (W7)- C:\Users\(Username)\AppData\Local\Temp

    These will be there unless you have removed temp files / folders. For Windows 7 users, the all users start menu is C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs and the all users desktop folder is C:\Users\Public\Desktop

    To resolve this issue, you may use the following method:

    Make sure that the auto-hide option is not enabled for Taskbar and Start Menu Properties:
    1. Press CRTL+ESC.
    2. If the Start menu appears, right-click the Start menu, and then click Properties.
    3. Click the Taskbar tab, clear the Auto-hide the taskbar check box, and then click OK.

    The issue may occured due to your user account settings are corrupted. You may creat a new user profile to check the result.

    Fix a corrupted user profile


    I also would like to suggest you use Windows Defender to see if there is a bad program.

    If you still face the issue, you may consider to repair windows by perform an in-place upgrade.

    Hope it helps.


    Blair Deng

    Blair Deng
    TechNet Community Support

    Friday, February 28, 2014 2:23 AM
  • Both start menu folder are present and empty besides a few accessory items and IE. Both remain empty, in program data and on each user profile on the machine, after turning auto hide off. Both remain empty after turning autohide for the taskbar back on again.

    Ive scanned through the temp folder locations and did not find my missing items.

    Creating a new user profile has no change either the new profile and new user remains affected by all symptoms with a completely empty start menu.

    Note: that Ive performed all of these steps prior and this is the second time. Im open to trying things more than once but I wanted to point out before opening this technet posting I attempted all suggested fixes from the following links and received 0 changes in symptoms/issues:





    Keep it coming Im open to anything at this point this is a huge impacting issue for us on almost all of our servers and it affected all of our users though system restores to before 2/13/14 fixed our users so they could get back to their jobs.

    I have performed both mbam scans, and Endpoint Protection scans on the network with no results. Windows Defender on my machine does not see anything either. Still working on my list of updates to post soon.


    Friday, February 28, 2014 1:24 PM
  • Hi Crispy1014,

    Thank you for you update.

    You may check if the items exists in: %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

    If not, I would like to suggest you copying them back from a good Windows 7 computer and add the missing shortcuts back.

    Did your domain admin enable the policy Remove common program groups from the Start Menu  for your user account in the domain? If you have local administrator rights you can run rsop.msc to get an overview of  the settings that are enforced from the domain.

    For more details, Group Policy for Windows Search


    If the issue does not occur in all computers, you should also compare the different gp settings and installed apps between them to narrow down the cause.

    Hope it helps.


    Blair Deng

    Blair Deng
    TechNet Community Support

    • Marked as answer by Cloud_TS Monday, March 10, 2014 6:06 AM
    • Unmarked as answer by Michael Spaulding Tuesday, June 24, 2014 5:34 PM
    Monday, March 3, 2014 9:54 AM
  • Blair,

    1st I am the Systems Admin/Domain Admin for my company. 

    Items do not exist in %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs.

    That GPO is not enabled.

    The issue affect all PC's to include servers.

    I have outlined the issue an answered these questions previously, please review my previous posts.




    Tuesday, March 18, 2014 5:25 PM
  • Just combed through viruses for the last month all were quarantined and none affected more than a few PC's.


    Tuesday, March 18, 2014 7:25 PM
  • We still suffer from this issue on all of our servers, obviously we can re-create start menu items to include admin tools items, however not knowing what caused this is a huge issue and concern. I will continue to investigate until I know what caused such an issue in our environment so we can prevent it in the future.


    Tuesday, June 24, 2014 5:38 PM