I’m a big believer in open platforms, computer platforms, and the power to customize stuff. Unfortunately, there’s a simple reality: developers’ work is sometimes a bit like the proverbial bull in the china shop. (Code SMASH!)

In short: a lot of times when Windows’ file managemer Explorer is hanging, it’s not Microsoft’s fault. Misbehaved shell extensions – often installed without your permission by other tools you’ve installed – are often responsible.

If you’re like me, you’re willing to put in a little bit of effort if it saves you time down the road. For me, a few tweaks to Explorer resolve some of Windows’ biggest annoyances and make it workable, productive, and enjoyable for music making. (Greetings, FL Studio and SONAR and Reaper and Windows-only plug-ins!)

At the end of last year, I wrote up a story on troubleshooting Explorer for Rain Recording, the custom music and visual PC makers. (Rain takes care of a lot of the other Windows annoyances right out of the box, but shell extensions are added by software you might install after you get one of their boxes.) It’s not really a music story, but I think if you can solve computer annoyances, you can get on with music making – and I still believe computers are far more interesting, on balance, than outboard gear alone. Explorer oddities are not among those reasons, so I:

  • Nuke bad shell extensions
  • Customize the context menu so that, instead of a terrifying, moldy wasteland, it becomes a productive tool
  • Stop network bottlenecks from hanging the system while it looks for disconnected file servers

Troubleshooting Windows Explorer [Rain Recording Pro]

I’m interested to hear how you work, though, and I’m sure there are tips I’ve missed.

10 Free Non-Musical Windows Software Every Musician Should Use
12 Free and Cheap Must-Have Music Utilities for Windows

By the way, to revisit a previous story, I’m still not entirely happy with any antivirus software. Antivir is quite lightweight, but posts ads for buying the full version every time it updates. I still long for a simple, lightweight tool that doesn’t nag you and can be switched off (updates and resident protection) whenever you want. I also have to question whether viruses are the threat they once were – meaning, with other protections, what you may want is something a lot more modest.