Properties Dialog Box in Windows Explorer Doesn't Work

Date Initially Written: 16 March 2003.

Problem: If I right-click on a drive or folder in Windows Explorer and then select Properties nothing happens; the Properties dialog box does not appear. Doing this on a file works ok however.

Operating System: Windows 2000 Professional with service pack 3.

Background: This problem first appeared after upgrading a Windows 2000 machine to Service Pack 3 (SP3). Sometimes rebooting fixed the problem.

Resolution Steps: A search of Google Groups told me that plenty of other people had this problem. Several people pointed to ZoneAlarm being the culprit. I carefully examined ZoneAlarm's settings to see if I had inadvertently told it to deny network access to any part of Windows that may be used by Windows Explorer, but nothing obvious showed up.

I run IIS on this machine so wondered if IIS was required by the "Web Sharing" tab that appears in the Properties dialog box. I opened a Command Prompt and reset IIS with the iisreset command and then tried bringing up the drive properties; it worked!

After some further research I found an interesting article called "Problems with ZoneAlarm and IIS". While the problem they describe doesn't have the same symptoms as mine, it does reveal that there are some dependencies between ZoneAlarm and IIS and that the start order of these two programs is important. The article describes a method that lets you tell IIS to wait until ZoneAlarm is loaded before starting itself, i.e. it's important that ZoneAlarm starts before IIS. My restarting of IIS had this result. I made the suggested changes to my registry and now everything is working fine. The steps are:

  1. Run RegEdt32.exe (not regedit.exe)
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\vsmon
  3. Edit the DependOnService and add W3SVC at the bottom of the list

Update (24 June 2005): It has been reported to me that this problem can occur with other firewall software (i.e. Norton Internet Security), not just ZoneAlarm.

Recommended Reading For Solving Windows XP Problems: Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out, Second Edition