What to do when Windows Explorer doesn't refresh

Explorer refresh horror solved! 12 solutions (and workarounds) for a 5-year-old Windows Explorer bug

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5. Try a Different Firewall/AV solution

Security suites obviously watch for file system activities. Their filter drivers may be a cause for file operations completing but not registering them with the UI. If none of the previous solutions worked, you might as well try a different security suite for a couple of days. Alternatively, you can try to switch to a less tight security setting and observe Explorer operation behavior.

6. Turn off Sharing

I have noticed that this bug appears on shared folders more often than on regular folders. For example, I share my "Pictures" library on my home network and this is one of the places where I see the refresh bug more often.

If you're not sharing media, make sure that Windows Media Player network sharing is turned off. You'll find the OFF switch under "Control Panel\Network and Sharing Center\Change advanced sharing settings".

7. Rebuild the Explorer Icon Cache

The icon cache in Windows Vista, 7 and 8 stores thumbnails of files -- if this cache has somehow reached its limit or got corrupted, you might need to rebuild it from scratch. Here's how: Close all programs and Windows and run "Task-Manager" by using the CTRL + SHIFT + ESC key combo. Kill "Explorer.exe". Go to "File/Run New Task" and type in "cmd". Enter the following commands and hit Return after each one:

CD /d %userprofile%\AppData\Local DEL IconCache.db /a EXIT

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8. Turn off NTFS Last Access File Stamp

The NTFS file system updates the "last access" timestamp whenever a file is opened. This time stamp did, on some user machines, cause new or changed files to not appear until an Explorer refresh. Try turning the Last Access stamp off: Open up the registry and go to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem". Double-click on "NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate" and set the value from "1" to "0". Now reboot.

Note: Some (rare) applications may depend on the NTFS stamp -- make sure that all your apps are still working.

9. Uncheck "Show Hidden Files and Folders"

Some users on the MS TechNet forums also claim to have solved the problem by unchecking the "Show Hidden Files and Folders" box in Windows Explorer properties.

10. Turn off Home Groups

Is the Home Group feature enabled on your system? If so, try turning Home Groups off -- including all the services that come with it. Fire up "services.msc" and disable both the "HomeGroup Listener" and the "HomeGroup" provider service. Again, a sharing related feature seems to be one of the many causes for this issue.

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11. Restore the Explorer Settings

Some users seem to have had success after resetting the Explorer settings: Go to the "Folder Options" dialog and hit "Restore Defaults" -- et voilà.

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12. Delete Libraries

If you're not in the habit of using "Libraries" (abstracted virtual folders that aggregate several physical folders into one view), delete them. Many users on the TechNet forums have reported that the refresh issue is gone after they've deleted the libraries. Don't worry, deleting the libraries doesn't remove the data in those folders.

Microsoft clearly knows about the Windows Explorer refresh issue and -- to this date -- has released no patch. I've been using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview for a while now and this bug keeps reappearing. In talking to a Microsoft employee, I now know that this bug is still internally "under investigation". Some of my solutions are absolutely unacceptable to folks who actively use (and love) home groups or share folders. They WANT Libraries and WANT UAC. It's a mess. And it's painful to see a mature operating system experience a bug in the most basic of PC operations.

This article, "What to do when Windows Explorer doesn't refresh," was originally published at ITworld. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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