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September 28, 2022

Win10 Troubleshooting Woes

The problem with shooting Windows 10 trouble, alas, is often in knowing where to aim. Case in point: my recent Reliability Monitor shows an error from the Windows Shell Experience. The specific error is labeled MoAppHang. As far as I can find out (and additional reporting data confirms this finding) this means some kind of UWP application has stopped responding to the OS, a condition also known as a “hang.” The faulting module is named ShellExperienceHost.exe. According to the How-To Geek, this module

“is responsible for presenting universal apps in a windowed interface. It also handles several graphical elements of the interface, like Start Menu and taskbar transparency and the new visuals for our notification area flyouts — clock, calendar, and so on. It even controls certain elements of desktop background behavior, like changing the background when you’re got it set to slideshow.”

The rest of that story goes into widely-reported situations where ShellExperienceHost.exe consumes lots of CPU and memory resources. That’s not my problem, though, so I started casting about for more directly relevant help for my specific problem — namely the program hangs, and stops interacting with Windows. Here’s some of the detail from Reliability Manager:

Win10 Troubleshooting Woes.relimon

Basically, this means a piece of Win10’s desktop display handling infrastructure has gone wonky.

How Win10 Troubleshooting Woes Originate

In searching for insight in dealing with this problem (looking for a quick and easy fix, basically), I found a fairly helpful ariticle at Appuals.com. It’s entitled “Fix: Windows Shell Experience Host has Stopped Working.” Sounds like it should be helpful, right? But alas, the more I read the more I realized that Windows troubleshooting remains a dark and difficult art. Sometimes, it’s more akin to old-fashioned magic (hold your nose, turn widdershins three times, and repeat this cantrip . . .) than it is to the scientific method. The proposed fixes demonstrate this pretty clearly, so I’ll list them in order, each with a brief capsule summary (each bolded lead-in item is quoted verbatim from the story). Read the original if you want all the details, please.

Solution 1: Updating your System Software: here, the author suggests making sure that one’s BIOS, chipset drivers, power management drivers, and graphics drivers are up-to-date. Ditto for being current with Windows Update.
Solution 2: Running System File Checker (SFC): checks the state of system files and can perform basic repairs. To be followed with DISM … /Restorehealth in case SFC isn’t up to the job.
Solution 3: Re-registering the Start Menu: Use a PowerShell cmdlet to re-register all of the UWP apps
Solution 4: Making a New Account: Try a new account to see if account corruption in the old one might be responsible for the issue.

These solutions are all well and good. They represent tried-and-true techniques for fixing certain kinds of problems with Windows 10. For me, none of them really works terribly well. I always keep my drivers and Windows 10 up-to-date so there goes solution 1. Neither SFC nor DISM find anything wrong with my system files or the Component Store, so that eliminates Solution 2. I use Start10 instead of the Start Menu on my PC, so I see no value in re-registering the UWP apps (and I’m not sure I’d want to anyway since they don’t misbehave when I try to use them from time to time). So much for Solution 3. And as for Solution 4, the problem is not a recurrent one, so how long would I have to switch to a different account to see if the problem pops up again. I’ve got work to do, guys, and I can’t let it go just to see if I can get a problem to present again under a slightly different runtime scenario.

Where’s the Target?

My real issue is that I can’t find any easy or ready way to try to zero in on the cause of the MoAppHang. I’m not even sure if it happens often enough to be worth the time and effort required to research and enact a repair. I’d like to have access to MS telemetry data to see how often it happens to the general user population. All I know is that it happens often enough for somebody to have written an article about it. In fact, this Google Search shows me that the problem goes back at least a far as 2016, and has been reported for versions 1607, 1703, 1709, 1803 and 1809. No quick and easy fixes are mentioned anywhere. I should count myself lucky for using Start10, because the problem definitely seems more pernicious for those who rely on the Start Menu. Numerous such reports include the ominous phrase “Start menu not working.”

Apparently, this has been going on for some time. And MS hasn’t been able to fix it yet. I’d like to see them build some troubleshooting tools that offer more insight into such errors when they occur. I’d also like to be informed (instead of having to learn through research) that this is an ongoing problem, for which no fix is currently available, but that a restart will usually set things back to rights. That’s all I need to know to keep on trucking with my day-to-day work. I have to believe many other Windows users feel similarly. It would sure make a convincing and helpful use of Windows Telemetry to make that kind of info available, too. What do you think?



Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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