How-To Geek

Fix for Windows Explorer Folder Pane in XP Becomes Grayed Out

A reader wrote in this week asking why his folder pane in Windows XP wasn’t working… it didn’t display anything other than a gray background with nothing else. This is actually a common problem that I’ve personally experienced before, which I luckily knew the solution to.

The issue is that there’s a corruption in the registry, and the specific key is either missing or somehow not correct, and a simple registry hack is required to fix the problem.


This problem sometimes occurs when you install applications that integrate themselves into Windows explorer or Internet Explorer, or when the uninstaller for those applications is just a little too excited about deleting things.

Registry Hack Info

While it’s too much of a pain to hack this manually, if you are curious where in the registry the problem is located, here’s the name of the key assigned to the folder pane band.



The above screenshot is the way it’s supposed to look (Yes, it’s supposed to look confusing). If that key does not exist, you are probably experiencing the exact same problem.

Download Registry Hack 

Just download, extract, and then double-click on the file to enter the information into the registry. Once you are done with that, log off and back on, and your folder pane should return:


This registry entry was exported from a clean install of Windows XP SP2.

Download FixFolderPaneGray Registry Hack

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/20/08

Comments (5)

  1. Planet Lowyat

    Cool! I have the similar problem but I just ignore for most of the time. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Starkiller

    I have a similar problem on one of my XP machines, but it’s not the folder pane that is grayed away, it’s the search pane. Happend after I deinstalled a File Indexer from Microsoft. The Indexer was rubbish so it had to go, but it took my normal search with it. Any Ideas?

  3. Irma

    The volume icon on my bottom task bar has disappeared & I can’t retrieve it. On the “control panel/sounds and audio devices” I have a check mark in the “place volume icon in the taskbar”. Can anyone help me?

  4. Skip Bogard


    I looked in my registry first and saw the key above with the data value “Explorer Band” set.

    Sooo…my first reaction was, “This suggested fix isn’t going to work…I have this registry key already.”

    But, I was desperate so I tried it anyway…and it worked! It fixed my grayed out pane! Thank you!

  5. jdsharp

    I have a pane problem, when i open a desktop folder when it opens a pane on the left hand side opens also how do I stop these panes from opens

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