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start menu folders are empty / start menu programs are empty

May 21, 2011

So there are no shortcuts or links inside of the folders in your start menu. It just says empty. I had to deal with this because of the Windows7 recovery virus (it hides all your stuff and it definitely kills the start-menu shortcuts.) I would first suggest to try a restore point after you remove the virus. It has worked quite a bit here. If there are no restore points, start with unhide.exe

It works well. After using this, I still couldn’t see my applications in the start-up menu, although on the bright side it did unhide everything that the virus has hidden. I tried to copy shortcuts from the “Program Files” folder, but that didn’t work either.

Here is how to fix the start-up menu missing the shortcuts to all your programs. Luckily they are saved in a temp directory. So long as you didn’t clear that I did just recently on a pc, you will be ok with this fix.

**The fix

1. Navigate to c:\users\username\appdata\local\temp\smtmp . There was 3 folders labled 1, 2, and 4. Mine was in folder 1. Look around and find a folder named programs. Select it and copy.

1.5 The old programs folder may not be in the above location, that’s just where i found mine. Just do a search for “programs” or find the name of a specific program you have installed that has an empty directory and search for that. Once you find one, you will find all the others.


C:\Users\(user name)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

2. Navigate to c:\programdata\microsoft\windows\startmenu\progams , and copy the other programs folder over.(This is where the start menu references.) Now you should be done.

Restart the PC and you should be good to go.

** Check out my article on how to fix file extensions. (only if you click a shortcut or .exe and it says “what program should it open with)

**to note.

If you are missing the smtmp folder, changes are you are screwed. You can repair programs in control panel and it should reinstall the desktop icons and the start menu.

In a comment below i had said to get them from another computer. There are sites that allow you to download default windows services (accessories, windows update…etc). Do some googling and you will find them. Also, you can try and get them from another PC. In a comment below, i said i had done this before.

IF YOU ARE MISSING THE ICONS SUCH AS (computer, videos, music, pictures…etc) follow this link

If you just removed a virus you should seriously consider checking for a rootkit.


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  1. These actions restored my desktop but the program groups in “All Programs” are still empty. There are no files in the smtmp folders, such as C:\Documents and Settings\Bill\Local Settings\Temp\smtmp\1\Programs\Games. Do you have any other suggestions short of reinstalling all of the programs?



    • To be honest, this isnt easy. I have used the windows system restore to take the PC back before this happened. I have had mixed results. It really all depends on if you can get the system restore to go through. Some Operating systems are pretty corrupt after this happens. If a system restore doesnt work, look to see if you have any backups of your users folder. A few PC’s at work have been backed up and even though the TEMP directories were erased, we still had that SMTMP folder so we were good. I have even gone as far as taking the programs shortcuts from program files and putting a shortcut link into the start menu folder. This will work, but you hardly get the names for the icons that you want. Good luck. Email me, you got it.

      P.S. Go to bestbuy if you got the PC there and copy the start menu from the PC that most closely resembles yours. It will have a majority of the stuff you need, minus anything you have personally installed.

  2. pat permalink

    This worked great for me, the only difference was that i had to paste the programs into the all users folder. I right clicked on the Start orb, open all users, and pasted.

    • Your welcome. I hope this is working for people. I see lots of looks, but not a whole lot of comments.

  3. Rachael permalink

    Worked first time without even restarting my laptop after! thanks!

  4. Ray Deluna permalink

    Thanks for the fix. Worked on first attempt. My folders were all empty and icons were missing from the desktop.

  5. I would like to say as well all my app data (username\appdata) was “hidden” after this virus. Many programs didn’t work the same. So I unhid them, nothing set on fire and now they work. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE SMTMP INFO saved a lot of headache

  6. Phil Duran permalink

    Thanks! Worked for me as well.

  7. Ric permalink

    Worked for me too. I somehow picked up a virus that hid all my programme files, my desktop files, and basically made itself as difficult as possible for me to get rid of it. It was masquerading under a fake Windows Security type pop-up that warned me my (C:) drive was imminently about to die, and that it needed to be fixed urgently.

    As my internet browsers were also hidden, and i’m not an expert on my work pc (mac user at home) i was more than slightly thrown by the problems. I worked out that by opening Control Panel> Windows Security Centre> and clicking on ‘Get the latest info from microsoft…’ that it would open Explorer which allowed me to google info on the virus. Not a whole lot out there, but by googling the wording as used in the malicious pop-ups i found some useful tips.

    Microsoft Security Essentials was running and up to date, yet it did not pick up any kind of malicious threat on a full scan. I tried to download and install the free version of Malwarebytes, but the trojan seemed to know about the filenames and stopped me from installing. (Good tip is to download the anti Malware/trojan software on a different pc and put it onto a USB stick for transfer to the infected machine – also change the filename of the .exe file to trick the trojan and allow installation)

    Malwarebytes didn’t actually find the trojan even though it was up to date (by this point i was panicking!), so i downloaded the free version of SUPER AntiSpyware which did the trick straightaway…. Pretty glad to find that it worked first time.

    After downloading and using the unhider which restored my desktop icons, and then following some tips on fixing the start menu, i found that everything looked like it was back to normal.

    Now several hours later, i’ve only just noticed that all of the applications subfolders in the start menu were still empty, meaning that all my Adobe CS software was still hidden!

    Thanks for the great fix! You saved my bacon… :0)

  8. blondie4681 permalink

    thank you so much for this!!!! i had a few files missing but not all and was soo frustrated that i couldn’t figure it out. everything is back to normal. thanks again!

  9. Tony permalink

    Many thanks mate, it had me baffled for a while but your solution did the trick on an XP infected machine. I searched for and found the “smtmp” folder and sure enough inside were the 1, 2 and 4 foldersand inside the 1 folder was the Programs folder. Like “Pat” above I copied and pasted that Programs folder into the All Users folder and Lo and Behold, all the Start Menu > All Programs > Programs > Shortcuts returned. Make sure to clean the virus first. Best Wishes……….. Tony

  10. Mikaela permalink

    great job..mine was infected by trojan/fakealert virus and it hides all my subfolder files. good i came across on your blog and that was really works. thank you so much, you save my ass..thanks again mate..

  11. Cindy permalink

    help. hp laptop had multiple trojan infections. i deleted all temp folders when “cleaning”. have run rkill, superantispyware & malwarebytes then unhide.exe to no avail. appears clean. changed all folder view properties to view/unhide w/no luck. communications, games, system tools, startup submenus all still “empty”. tried system restore early on and several times but won’t restore. this is my little niece’s laptop so i have no disks and don’t see i386 disk image or i’d just reinstall os. this is windows xp sp3.

    • I sent you an email regarding ideas on fixing this. Let me know what you think. I am more than glad to help.

  12. Beth permalink

    Not gonna lie, I was skeptical at first, but this worked for me! Thank you so much!

    • No reason to be skeptical. I have no reason to lie or mislead anyone. I want to see people fix their own computers, it makes me quite happy. Enjoy.

  13. Soozy permalink

    Huge thanks! After cleaning up after a virus was downloaded on my friends pc I have been googling solutions to the empty programs menu for 2 days. This worked first time and your directions were superb!

  14. Worked like a charm!!! Thanks so much!!!

  15. Joe permalink

    Worked great! Any idea how to get the icons for the various program folders back to how they looked before? It’s not a big deal, but a little annoying.

  16. Reblogged this on Sysadmin Manhattan and commented:
    Came across this last night cleaning up after a colleague that didn’t know better than to run Ccleaner and subsequently removed the SMTMP folder leaving the client screwed, essentially.

  17. nhwilly permalink

    Awesome. Just awesome. Lost it all to some trojan and this got my 525 start menu files back.


  18. Peter permalink

    Usually I do not post something online, but I have to thank you for your help here. I have been absolutely desperate trying to find ways to restore my hidden programs. I simply ran the hide.exe and everthing are back to normal. Thanks a million. You are a genius!!!

  19. Pin permalink

    Thank you so so very much hateadub. you made my day!!

  20. My xp laptop has no more virus per Malwarebytes full scan report stated. I did run unhide.exe and many clean registry software, this might be the reason why the start menu, all programs and desktop shortcuts when right click got “scan with Malwarebytes” instead of “open” option as the first item in the menu and I am not able to download any software because of unable to create shortcut problem with CoCreateInstance failed; code 0x80040154 class not registered error. I am not able to restore system as well and I don’t have smtmp directory as you mentioned above. Please help! Thanks!

    • Yikes, doesnt sound good. If you could possibly email me at and give me a better explanation, i may be able to help. Are u trying to recreate the shortcuts? do you still have a virus? Some screenshots would be the best way for me to see whats going on. Goggle how to take a screenshot and that should explain how to do this.

  21. Judy Shyu permalink

    Sorry, I got problem to send the email.

    Thank you so much for help! Sorry, I got problem to copy/paste the screenshot. I open Paint under directory but it does not allow the paste.

    I’ll try to explain my xp laptop problems:
    I have a Dell Latitude E6500 XP S3, because the battery indicator on keyboard keep blinking therefore I tried to download the update driver software as someone suggested on the internet, then I got virus and I tried to download many clean registry software and messed up my laptop I guess. Per Malwarebytes report and Norton Power Eraser, I don’t have any virus now but this laptop got many problems:
    1. All of my shortcuts on the desktop and start left menu when right click got “Scan with Malwarebytes anti-malware on the top of context menu above the Send To option therefore I am not able to double click on any shortcuts to open it either from the menu or Microsoft word Shortcut on the desktop for instance.
    2. I cannot open all of the left menu items of the Start menu except Google and All programs such as Microsoft Office, I need to find the .exe in the directory and open it from the corresponding directories.
    3. I am not able to download software, for example,
    I tried to update the Malwarebytes and I got CoCreateInstance failed; Code 0x80040154 Class not registered.
    I tried to update Google and I got Google update installation failed …0x80004002.
    4. I did run unhide.exe,regsvr32/I shell32, sfc/scannow and chkdsk/f /x /r with no problem.
    Thank you so much again! Good night!


    • It sounds like the update issue related to their being a virus on the pc still. You may want to download security essentials as well as another program to scan the pc. As far as the icons…if you right click you dont see open correct? If thats the case i will look for the registry fix, as i know there is definitely a way to fix it. The start menu programs not launching is pobably because the icons point to a corrupted file path…aka if you right click on the icon and select options, you will see file path. Make sure they all have the correct file path (going to take some time) If you want i could remote login to your pc using my logmein, but thats up to you.

      • Judy Shyu permalink

        Thank you very much to reply my problems. Please let me know what fee do I have to pay. Thank you very much!

      • I dont really like to charge. I charge people for PC work all day, its nice to just help. Check my blog, i just posted a fix that may possibly relate to the one issue you have…..And let me know when is good for you if you need a remote login, i have off work tomorrow and saturday.

      • Judy Shyu permalink

        I did compare all XP registries and I don’t see anything wrong. Thanks!

      • You should just run the fix anyway, those are long keys. I definitely had the same issue you described in your comment when i deleted that key. If it still doesn’t work let me know.

  22. Judy Shyu permalink

    It’s really nice of you to help people. How about Saturday? What information do you need in order to login remotely.Thank you very much for help! This is what I got:

    Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

    Database version: v2012.07.03.05

    Windows XP Service Pack 3 x86 NTFS
    Internet Explorer 8.0.6001.18702
    owner :: D3Y0KQH1 [administrator]

    Protection: Enabled

    2012/7/19 下午 10:52:14
    mbam-log-2012-07-19 (22-52-14).txt

    Scan type: Quick scan
    Scan options enabled: Memory | Startup | Registry | File System | Heuristics/Extra | Heuristics/Shuriken | PUP | PUM
    Scan options disabled: P2P
    Objects scanned: 241776
    Time elapsed: 9 minute(s), 46 second(s)

    Memory Processes Detected: 0
    (No malicious items detected)

    Memory Modules Detected: 0
    (No malicious items detected)

    Registry Keys Detected: 0
    (No malicious items detected)

    Registry Values Detected: 0
    (No malicious items detected)

    Registry Data Items Detected: 0
    (No malicious items detected)

    Folders Detected: 0
    (No malicious items detected)

    Files Detected: 0
    (No malicious items detected)


    • I will send you my login info for my logmein account on saturday. I am located in eastern time zone. I would prefer to do it in the morning, around 10 or 11. My daughter should be napping then.

  23. Judy Shyu permalink

    What is the reason why the AVG Internet Security 2012 on my laptop can’t display completely and the cursor is blinking? Thanks!

  24. Judy Shyu permalink

    You are the best! I got my OPEN option back! Thank you very much!

  25. Michael Holstein permalink

    Hello! I’ve found the folder that you’re speaking of, but where should I paste them after copying?

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