Tech Support Forum banner

Post-crash/reboot, how can I find out what files I had open before the crash?

2640 Views 3 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  justpassingby

Is there I can find out a list of the programs that were open on my taskbar before my computer crashed? I tend to have lots of documents open (esp. text files I'm reading - i.e. not editing - for research purposes) and when my computer crashes or is forced to reboot, the only way I can guess which files I had previously open is by doing a Windows file search for files accessed in the past few days.

This doesn't always help - esp. as I hibernate my computer lots and files may be open and unchanged for several day.

Sometimes, when I'm about to crash, I quickly take a screen-dump of my taskbar or the task manager list of programs so I know which windows/files I had open... but isn't there a log of some sort somewhere containing information on which files were active at a particular time, just before a restart or system crash?

(I don't mean the program that caused the crash; I know I can find out about the crashing program from event viewer. I wanna know about all the OTHER program names I had open at the time. And I don't just want to know they were called 'notepad.exe', 'winword.exe' - I want to know the actual files opened up at the time of the crash. In short, I want the information I can get if I photograph the tabs on my taskbar just before a crash. We're talking about already-saved notepad files, photographs etc. that are open on my screen just before a restart.)

Any tips on whether Windows has this information somewhere? Are there any logs that may contain this information?

Thanks a lot for your help! :D
Not open for further replies.
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Hi esinohm and welcome to TSF !

Several MRU (most recently used) lists are stored in the registry, but you won't find a single list with all the programs that were opened at a given time.

This article discloses the location of the MRU lists for office documents :;en-us;826208

Latest opened and saved files will also appear in the recent document menu in the start menu. There's a setting that allows you to see recently opened documents in the start menu properties : right-click the start menu => properties => customize next to start menu => advanced.

Have you tried investigating the reasons of the crashes ? Could be a single hardware problem. I can usually leave my computer on for a whole week without any crashes.

What are your system specs ?
See less See more
Thank you for your response: that link was quite helpful, as about 10 or so of the last opened notepad files are mentioned in



Is there a way in which I can make Regedit automatically show binary text in normal text, rather than having to click on entry individually to read the text?

My system, thankfully, does not crash willy-nilly. It went yesterday when I had been hibernating and going on for almost a month, and it was slightly sluggish with 124 notepad files open. I decided to Ctrl-Alt-Del some programs, so I could get some 'oomph' back so I could start to close down these notepad files properly before restarting.

Foolishly, I managed to ctrl-alt-del something that Windows needed ( Comment: Windows must now restart because the DCOM Server Process Launcher service terminated unexpectedly) and Windows gave me 30 seconds before it would restart. Ctrl + Break did nothing. I hate it when my computer doesn't take orders from me and decides to automatically restart.

In the past, this used to happen when Windows update would pester me for a restart and I'd click Yes because I was typing or something. Luckily, I found out how to stop that!

More commonly, I have this problem when I hit the restart or shutdown button instead of hibernate or standby. Windows doesn't seem to have a key combo that will stop a shutdown or restart in progress, in case someone has lots of text files he or she wants to save! Is there such a key combo? Thanks for your help! :D

(System specs: Laptop, hence the excessive use of hibernate, 1gig ram, AMD Turion 64, 1.6GHz, WinXP SP2 Home. Thanks!)
See less See more
If you're working on so many txt files at the same time you should look for some third party text editor to replace notepad. Most of them will have their own "recent files" list and some of them will allow you to bookmark the files and open them all back in one click. Google will have plenty. Examples (they're free but I can't say if they'll have all the features you want) :

There are also programs that will run in the background and save selected documents automatically on a predetermined schedule or before shutdown. Examples (not free) :

Is there a way in which I can make Regedit automatically show binary text in normal text, rather than having to click on entry individually to read the text?
I'm not sure I understand what you mean but you can reduce the size of the name and type columns in the registry in order to view the full content of the data column. If you exit the registry it'll save the size of those columns.

Most programs that deal with MRU lists will only allow you to delete them all (can be useful for privacy purposes) but this one allows you to view the content of all the MRU lists before cleaning them : Don't use it to clear your MRU lists, on my computer it deleted the complete open save key in the registry, preventing further recording of the most recently used files. I had to use system restore to restore the missing key.

Windows doesn't seem to have a key combo that will stop a shutdown or restart in progress, in case someone has lots of text files he or she wants to save! Is there such a key combo?
shutdown -a will cancel the shutdown process. Right-click the desktop => new => shortcut. Enter %windir%\system32\shutdown.exe -a as the command and give it the name you want. Then right-click the newly created shortcut => properties. Go to the shortcut tab and and enter some key in the "shortcut key" box. XP will add Ctrl+Alt automatically. More info on keyboard shorcuts :

To avoid hitting the wrong key you could also use the keyboard to shutdown the computer. Each option (restart, standy, hibernate, shutdown) has a related key that you can see if you hold the alt key down. On my French installation I usually shut the computer down by typing Alt+F4 (repeated until there are no windows left on the desktop, then one more time to get the shutdown options) then T (for Arrêter). If you want to shutdown the computer without closing all the opened windows first you can press the windows key once (this opens the start menu) then press u (for shutdown) then the key that corresponds to what you want to do.
See less See more
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Not open for further replies.