How do I know if I have the Windows 10 Critical Start Menu error?

Every time you click the start button at the bottom left of your Windows 10 desktop you will receive this message.

Critical-error

Clicking Sign out now will log you off.  You can use your computer and clicking icons on the taskbar will continue to work, as will Windows keyboard shortcuts.  But if your files are on OneDrive, that will generally stop syncing so any changes you make will not be uploaded to the Microsoft cloud.

This issue has been around since June 2015 and, as yet, Microsoft doesn’t have a fix.

What can I do about it?

There’s no guaranteed solution and unfortunately you might need to reset your PC to its defaults, but we’ve compiled below the fixes that have worked for some computers we’ve seen.  You’ll also find links to other sites that have suggestions for resolving the critical start menu error.

With all these don’t click the Start Button or you will receive the error.  If you do have the error on your screen, reboot the computer first and log on again.

This is Microsoft’s recommended solution and is a bit convoluted but seems to work in about one time in five.

Press Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, type msconfig then press Yes when prompted and you’ll see this window

msconfig

Click the Boot tab and then tick Safe boot and check Network

msconfig-sm

When prompted reboot.  Then when the computer restarts log on.  Press Ctrl, Alt and Escape together to bring up Task Manager.  Click File in the top left and then Run new task.

Type cmd and make sure Create this task with administrative privileges is ticked.

You will then have a black command window: type sfc /scannow and press enter

cmd

When that’s done type msconfig directly into the black Command window, go to the boot tab and deselect Safe Mode.  Press OK and reboot when prompted.

When the PC restarts test and see if the error has gone.

Press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type ms-settings:  Click Accounts then Other users and then Add someone else to this PC.  We want an PC account not linked to a Microsoft account so click I don’t have this person’s sign-in information.  Click Add a user without a Microsoft account at the bottom of the window.

add-user

Enter the details for a new user – it doesn’t matter what you call it but not Guest or Administrator.  tempadmin would be fine.

When the account is created, click on it and click Change account type.  Set the account type to Administrator.

Reboot the PC and see if that works.

Before you do this make sure you have the product key or logon details so you can reinstall the software.

To uninstall, press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type control panel and press enter.  Type programs in the search box in the top right and then click Add or remove programs.  Select your anti-malware software, click Uninstall and follow the prompts.

Reboot your PC when prompted, then test.

If that doesn’t work reinstall your malware protection before trying the next few steps.

To repair Office, press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type control panel and press enter.  Type programs in the search box in the top right and then click Add or remove programs.  Select Microsoft software, right click and click Change.  Select Online Repair and click Repair.
Before you do this make sure you have the logon details to Dropbox so you can reinstall the software.

To uninstall, press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type control panel and press enter.  Type programs in the search box in the top right and then click Add or remove programs.  Select Dropbox, click Uninstall and follow the prompts.

Reboot your PC when prompted, then test.

Press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type ms-settings:  Next click Update & security, then Check for updates.  Install all updates, reboot and see if the error has gone.

It all else fails, reset your PC

If you have tried all else and no luck, then unfortunately the only option is to reset your PC.  Be warned, this will delete all your documents, pictures, music and programs i.e. your anti-malware, Word, Excel, your email settings and any other software you had installed.  So before you start:

  1. Copy your files to an external hard drive and/or a cloud backup or file sharing service
  2. Make sure you have the product keys for everything.

To start. press the Windows key on your keyboard + r at the same time, then type ms-settings:

Select Update and Security, then Recovery on the left hand side.

Under Reset this PC, click Get started.   Select Remove everything and follow the prompts.

When this has finished your PC will be just like it was when you first bought it and yuo can set it up again from scratch.

What causes it

Unfortunately, we don’t know but from what we can see neither do Microsoft! It doesn’t happen with local accounts so it’s something to do with the way a Microsoft Account syncs with Windows.  We’ve never seen it in a Windows 10 computer joined to a domain, even if the computer is also linked to a Microsoft account.

As above, reinstalling your malware protection can help for some computers, but we’ve seen it with Norton, Kaspersky and Avast so it’s not related to a specific package.

Other sources of information