This strange Windows 10 bug gave us a serious fright - don’t make the same mistake

Windows 10
(Image credit: Shutterstock / tanuha2001)

We at TechRadar Pro often cover the latest Windows 10 updates and issues, but also sometimes fall victim to bugs in the operating system ourselves.

Last week, we experienced a strange Windows 10 problem that prevented our Start menu from opening, which is of course a major inconvenience.

Every time we clicked on the menu or pressed the Windows key, we were served the following message: “Critical Error: Your Start menu isn’t working. We’ll try to fix it next time you sign in.”

Unfortunately, fixing the issue wasn’t as simple as signing out and back in again; and the scarcity of information online made restoring full functionality to our device surprisingly painful.

Windows 10 start menu error

"Critical Error: Your Start menu isn't working" (Image credit: Future)

Windows 10 error: 'Your Start menu isn't working'

The famous Windows Start menu provides easy access to all manner of important functions and features - from applications to files, settings, power options and more.

So, while the OS is still technically usable with the Start menu out of action, the experience becomes disjointed and much less smooth.

Although some articles on the Windows 10 Start menu error date all the way back to 2015, there is a surprising lack of information online about what might cause the issue and how it should be fixed. The advice that is available (mostly from third parties) is highly varied and, in our experience, mostly ineffective.

We tried signing in and out, rebooting in Safe Mode, restarting Windows Explorer, checking for Windows 10 and driver updates, uninstalling DropBox and our antivirus service - all of which appear in advice materials online. In the end, though, we had to resort to a full factory reset.

To make matters worse, we had committed the cardinal sin of not keeping an up-to-date backup; our most recent was more than nine months old.

Mercifully, this particular Windows 10 error did not prevent us from navigating Windows Explorer and copying our most recent files over to an external hard drive. But if this was not the case, we would have been in trouble.

The issue served as a timely reminder to always keep regular backups - and we won’t be making the same mistake again. As a reminder, the best way to protect your valuable data is by following the 3-2-1 backup rule: store three copies of data, on two types of media, with one copy stored offsite.

Microsoft is yet to respond to our request for clarification over what might cause the Windows 10 Start menu issue and whether a reliable solution is available that does not involve a full factory reset.

Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.