This Application Has Failed to Start Because SHELL32.dll Was Not Found Error
Stuart writes in with a troubleshooting question
Question: A friend gave me a nice (but a few years old) Compaq laptop because she somehow uninstalled an XP operating system file and it won't open up now. She was told that it would take a couple of hundred bucks to fix and she bought a new one. I can get it to open to the orange screen where a notice appears saying "This application has failed to start because SHELL32.dll was not found. Re-installing the application may fix this problem".
I am able to get it to a safe mode and all that but don't know where to go from here. Could I get a Windows XP Home operating system disk, put it in the drive and it would work? Can you give me some ideas of how to get it up and running inexpensively?
Answer: The easiest thing to do would be to do a repair installation of Windows if you have an XP disk. This will reinstall Windows over itself and leave your programs and files intact. It would be easier than trying to get another copy of shell32.dll and replacing it unless you are comfortable with the Windows Recovery Console. Plus you may find its not the only problem after you fix it.
If you don't need to keep anything on it then you may be better off reinstalling Windows from scratch to make sure you have a clean installation with no issues. Just be sure to go into Device Manager and write down the make and model of your video card, sound card and network adapter so you can find drivers for them later if Windows doesn't recognize them after its installed. You can do this in Safe Mode.