Software & Apps Windows How to Fix Shell32.dll Not Found or Missing Errors A troubleshooting guide for Shell32.dll errors By Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated February 18, 2020 Windows The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide Tweet Share Email Shell32.dll errors are caused by situations that lead to the removal or corruption of the shell32 DLL file. In some cases, shell32.dll errors could indicate a registry problem, a virus or malware issue, or even a hardware failure. The shell32.dll file contains Windows Shell API functions and is therefore necessary for your computer to work properly, like to open files. The shell32.dll error message could apply to any program or system that might utilize the file on any of Microsoft's operating systems including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows 2000. Shell32.dll Errors There are several different ways that shell32.dll errors can show up on your computer. Here are some of the more common ways that you might see shell32.dll errors: Shell32.dll Not FoundThis application failed to start because shell32.dll was not found. Re-installing the application may fix this problem.Cannot find [PATH]\shell32.dllThe file shell32.dll is missing.Cannot start [APPLICATION]. A required component is missing: shell32.dll. Please install [APPLICATION] again. Shell32.dll error messages might appear while using or installing certain programs, when Windows starts or shuts down, or maybe even during a Windows installation. The context of the shell32.dll error is an important piece of information that will be helpful while solving the problem. How to Fix Shell32.dll Errors Do not download shell32.dll from a "DLL download" website. There are many reasons why downloading a DLL file is a bad idea. If you need a copy of shell32.dll, it's best to obtain it from its original, legitimate source. Start Windows in Safe Mode to complete any of the following steps if you're unable to access Windows normally due to the shell32.dll error. Restore shell32.dll from the Recycle Bin. The easiest possible cause of a "missing" shell32.dll file is that you've mistakenly deleted it. If you suspect that you've accidentally deleted shell32.dll but you've already emptied the Recycle Bin, you may be able to recover shell32.dll with a free file recovery program. Recovering a deleted copy of shell32.dll with a file recovery program is a smart idea only if you're confident you've deleted the file yourself and that it was working properly before you did that. Run a virus/malware scan of your entire system. Some shell32.dll errors could be related to a virus or other malware infection on your computer that has damaged the DLL file. It's even possible that the shell32.dll error you're seeing is related to a hostile program that's masquerading as the file. Use System Restore to undo recent system changes. If you suspect that the shell32.dll error was caused by a change made to an important file or configuration, a System Restore could solve the problem. Run the sfc /scannow System File Checker command to replace a missing or corrupt copy of the shell32.dll file. Since this DLL file is provided by Microsoft, the System File Checker tool should restore it. Try your best to complete this step. Having Windows replace the shell32.dll file is a likely solution to this DLL error. If you can't run the System File Checker tool under normal conditions, try booting into Safe Mode with Command Prompt, and run the command there. Reinstall the program that uses the shell32.dll file. If the shell32.dll DLL error occurs when you use a particular program, reinstalling the program should replace the file. Update the drivers for hardware devices that might be related to shell32.dll. If, for example, you're receiving a "The file shell32.dll is missing" error when you play a 3D video game, try updating the drivers for your video card. The shell32.dll file may or may not be related to video cards—this was just an example. The key here is to pay very close attention to the context of the error and troubleshoot accordingly. Roll back a driver to a previously installed version if shell32.dll errors began after updating a particular hardware device's driver. Install any available Windows updates. Many service packs and other patches replace or update some of the hundreds of Microsoft distributed DLL files on your computer. The shell32.dll file could be included in one of those updates. Test your memory and then test your hard drive. I've left the majority of hardware troubleshooting to the last step, but your computer's memory and hard drive are easy to test and are the most likely components that might cause shell32.dll errors as they fail. If the hardware fails any of your tests, replace the memory or replace the hard drive as soon as possible. Repair your installation of Windows. If the individual shell32.dll file troubleshooting advice above is unsuccessful, performing a startup repair or repair installation should restore all Windows DLL files to their working versions. Use a free registry cleaner to repair shell32.dll related issues in the registry. A free registry cleaner program may be able to help by removing invalid shell32.dll registry entries that might be causing the DLL error. I rarely recommend the use of registry cleaners. I've included the option here as a "last resort" attempt before the destructive step coming up next. Perform a clean installation of Windows. A clean install of Windows will erase everything from the hard drive and install a fresh copy of Windows. If none of the steps above correct the shell32.dll error, this should be your next course of action. All the information on your hard drive will be erased during a clean install. Make sure you've made the best attempt possible to fix the shell32.dll error using a troubleshooting step prior to this one. Troubleshoot for a hardware problem if any shell32.dll errors persist. After a clean install of Windows, your DLL problem can only be hardware related. Need More Help? If you're not interested in fixing this problem yourself, see How Do I Get My Computer Fixed? for a full list of your support options, plus help with everything along the way like figuring out repair costs, getting your files off, choosing a repair service, and a whole lot more.