Windows 7: Server Execution Failed


This post provides a long discussion of various efforts to solve this problem. This writeup of those efforts may be useful for people who are getting this error message for assorted reasons. In my case, the solution was just to make sure that all necessary drives — the drives that the registry might expect to find, that I would be accessing in normal usage — were connected and mounted.


I was using Windows 7 x64. I went into Control Panel > Programs and Features. For some reason, the list of installed programs did not come up. Instead, after a delay of a minute or less, during which the Start button and taskbar were unresponsive, I got this error message:

Server execution failed

Later I would find that the precise form of this message would vary, depending on whether I was trying to open Windows Explorer, Control Panel, or some other Windows 7 component that was suddenly not working.

As the reader may surmise, (a) I did not want to see this error and (b) I did want to see the Programs and Features window. This post discusses my attempts to achieve those desired outcomes.

First Time Around

I started by running Glary Registry Repair. I had just run it a short time earlier, in response to a previous occurrence of this error message. This time, as often occurred, it found 273 Custom Controls errors. Letting it fix those had not seemed to achieve anything in particular. I had even worried that doing so might cause problems. Nonetheless, I decided to use the Glary fix once again. It said, “Registry Repair has cleaned your registry successfully.” I tried opening Programs and Features again. This time, I got only the second line of the error message, “Server execution failed,” preceded by a blank. Further experimentation suggested that the precise outcome varied, according to whether I tried starting Programs and Features from Control Panel (above) or instead used the Start > Settings > Programs and Features option available on my particular system configuration. I tried running Glary again. This time, it found no errors. It seemed I had exhausted its usefulness for present purposes.

I had also already tried running SFC /SCANNOW at a command prompt. That did not appear to have fixed the problem. Note: it appeared that both lines of the foregoing error message were reappearing. That is, what appears to be two lines of code comments (i.e., preceded by a double colon, “::”) did seem to mark, somewhere, a location related to the Server Execution error.

To find out what was going on, I ran a search. It seemed that some people encountered the “server execution failed” error in connection with Windows Media Player (WMP). I guessed that possibly the existence of WMP on my Programs and Features list would cause this problem. But a check on another machine indicated that WMP did not appear on the Programs and Features list.

I went to Start > Run > SystemPropertiesAdvanced.exe (also presumably runnable from a command prompt) and went into System Protection tab > System Restore. There, I chose that morning’s scheduled restore point, which I believed predated the arrival of the Server Execution error, and rolled the system back to that time. It seems, alas, I was mistaken: the Server Execution error recurred when I now tried to get into Programs and Features. I tried another rollback, this time to a restore point from the previous day, and then from the day before that. For some reason, that was the limit of my system restore points (even though I had set up the system to store much more than that), and it was not good enough: I still got the Server Execution error. I definitely had not been having this error during preceding days; apparently the problem was not being fixed by the System Restore approach.

I could have restored a previous image of drive C, wiping out the whole thing and surely getting back to a state prior to the arrival of whatever was causing Server Execution errors. But before doing that, and losing whatever system tweaks and installations I had arranged since then, I decided to look into the foregoing search, and see if any of the webpages it turned up had any bright ideas.

One thread suggested typing these commands at an administrator command prompt:

regsvr32 jscript.dll
regsvr32 vbscript.dll

The first of those two brought a message: “DllRegisterServer in jscript.dll succeeded.” Similarly, the second brought, “”DllRegisterServer in vbscript.dll succeeded.” The thread said that this would make WMP work, and perhaps it would; but it did not prevent recurrence of the Server Execution error when I tried to go into Programs and Features.

I tried a revision of the foregoing search, excluding entries talking about WMP. One of the resulting hits talked about the Server Execution error when using Endnote or Reference Manager in Microsoft Word. Another cited the error in connection with Windows Virtual PC. For another, the problem arose while installing Service Pack 1.

Closer to the mark, one thread suggested trying one if not both of these changes to the registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders\Personal

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders\Personal

To achieve those, I went to Start > Run > Regedit (also available from the command line), navigated to the first specified location, and saw that the Personal location (and also several others, i.e., My Music, My Pictures, My Video) specified at that location was looking at drive R. Same thing at the second of those two registry locations. That was odd. I had temporarily set up a disk to run at drive R; but as far as I recalled, I hadn’t indicated that I wanted that to be the new default partition for anything.

Well, I had a customized registry (.reg) file that would modify all sorts of things, including the location of those personal folders. Viewing that file in Notepad, I extracted the relevant lines to a separate Notepad session. Those lines were:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

; Point to Current folder for Music, Video, Pictures, etc.
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders]
"My Music"="I:\\Current"
"My Pictures"="I:\\Current"
"My Video"="I:\\Current"
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders]
"My Music"="I:\\Current"
"My Pictures"="I:\\Current"
"My Video"="I:\\Current"

The I:\Current folder was where I wanted all those things to be located. (I made sure that there presently was such a folder.) Prior experience had taught me that the first line, “Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00,” was necessary for this Notepad file to run as a .reg file. In Regedit, I verified that there were indeed entries bearing those names (e.g., “{374DE290-123F-4565-9164-39C4925E467B}”) at those locations. I saved this file as x.reg and double-clicked to run it. Now I saw that the values at the foregoing registry locations had been changed.

Before trying to open Programs and Features, I wanted to act upon one other piece of newly found or recalled knowledge. While playing with the foregoing registry edit material, it occurred to me that the first line of my Server Execution error message (above) was probably referring to a registry location. That line read as follows:


So now, in Regedit, I searched for the first of those two locations, namely, {26EE0668-A00A-44D7-9371-BEB064C98683}. It appeared to correspond to Control Panel. I guessed, then, that the second part ({7B81BE6A-CE2B-4676-A293E-EB907A5126C5}) must be associated with Programs and Features, which (as noted above) was one of the components within Control Panel. A search in Regedit for that second part yielded nothing. Maybe I had copied it wrong. I tried going into Programs and Features at this point, hoping to recreate the second part of that error message but, unfortunately, I was not able to do so: Programs and Features was now working normally.

A search suggested that I had indeed copied it wrong, or something: what I was really looking for was {7B81BE6A-CE2B-4676-A29E-EB907A5126C5}. A search for that, in Regedit, found it in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID. Generally, it seemed that the parts of the first line of the Server Execution error might be pointing toward items on a list of Windows Special Folders, and that those could be found and examined with a Ctrl-F search in the registry via Regedit. But in this case that seemed unnecessary: Regedit wasn’t telling me anything that I didn’t already know. The problem involved Programs and Features, and that’s all I learned from that CLSID location in the registry.

In short, the solution in this case was that the registry had somehow been told to look for my Personal and other everyday folders in the wrong location. I had to restore the right location, either using manual registry edits at the appropriate locations or by running a .reg file that would make the changes automatically. I could not say whether these steps would solve all problems that seemed similar to this one; this was just what had worked for me in this case.

Second Time Around

Unfortunately, a few weeks later, the problem recurred. Whatever may have caused it previously, this time it occurred immediately after running Windows Update and then rebooting. I ran the customized REG file just described, and then rebooted, but this time that did not solve the problem.

This time, I was not getting all of those lines in the error message — the lines that, as I now understood, were pointing me to a specific registry location. This time, the only text in the error message was “Server execution failed,” preceded by a blank space. I wasn’t sure if that was because Windows couldn’t figure out where the problem was, or what that blank space meant.

I was getting the error message when I tried to access Control Panel > Windows Update. I was doing that because I wanted to know if there were additional updates I should be installing. I had installed some updates, rebooted as indicated, and then installed the next (last?) remaining update, and that’s when it became impossible to access Windows Update.

I verified that the problem wasn’t just with Windows Update: I tried accessing other options in Control Panel, and I got the same thing there. Each time I tried one of those options, there was a pause of about a minute, and then the “Server execution failed” message. This did not happen when I tried to access Control Panel > Device Manager, but it did happen with one or two other Control Panel options.

There was the option of at least trying to run Windows Update nonetheless, in case Microsoft had another fix to solve this. A search for command-line ways of starting Control Panel tools yielded the information that I could start Windows Update by opening a CMD window and typing “control /name Microsoft.WindowsUpdate.” The bad news is, once again that gave me a “Server execution failed” message. The good news is, this time it gave me more information along with that.

This time, the full error message was hard to read: it looked like some of it might extend beyond the right edge of the dialog, and I could not expand the size of the dialog box. I tried running the Windows 7 Event Viewer (eventvwr.msc at a command prompt or at Start > Run), but it had a boatload of logs, and I was not sure which to use. A Ctrl-F search in Event Viewer for 26EE (appearing toward the start of the error message) did not turn up anything, though possibly I was not searching in the right place. A similar search in Nirsoft’s My Event Viewer found nothing recent. A search led to the advice to use Event Viewer > Custom Views > Administrative Events. I did not see anything on point there. I did see, however, this warning:

The maximum file size for session “ReadyBoot” has been reached. As a result, events might be lost (not logged) to file “C:\Windows\Prefetch\ReadyBoot\ReadyBoot.etl”.

So maybe I wasn’t seeing an error message regarding the “Server execution failed” message because my log for ReadyBoot (whatever that was) was full. A search led to the advice to use Performance Monitor: I typed “perfmon.msc /s” (at a command prompt) > Data Collector Sets > Startup Event Trace Sessions > right-click on ReadyBoot > Properties > File tab > check the Circular box. This was presumably better than the alternate advice to choose the Stop Condition tab > Maximum size 60MB (or whatever): presumably the log file would fill up eventually, regardless of the size set, but the Circular option would apparently shed the oldest entries as new ones arrived, and the 20MB default would accommodate a lot of plain-text messages before recycling.

So maybe that would improve my logging of future error messages, but at the moment I still did not have the full text of the error message. I could have tried again to generate the error message, and see if it went into the log this time, but meanwhile there were a couple of other developments. One was that, as I looked at the error dialog again, I decided that maybe I was wrong. I had thought the right end of the error message was scrolling beyond the edge of the dialog, but now I saw that maybe it was reporting its full text onscreen after all. Here’s what it seemed to say:

Server execution failed

Based on the previous go-round (above), I assumed that this was telling me that I got the error message because of something found at those two locations in the registry. The first location was the same as in the previous go-round; the second one was new.

In Regedit, a Find (Ctrl-F) for the first of those two registry locations (i.e., 26EE0668-A00A-44D7-9371-BEB064C98683) took me to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Wow6432Node\CLSID{26EE0668-A00A-44D7-9371-BEB064C98683}. I didn’t know what I was supposed to see there, and I didn’t see any obvious problems. I did wonder whether one of the items (System.AppUserModel.RelaunchDisplayNameResource) was supposed to have a data value beginning with a # symbol. Its value was #%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-4161, and I didn’t recall seeing # symbols in registry entries. A search in Regedit turned up some other entries containing # symbols, though, so I decided it was probably OK. Other than that, a search seemed to be leading back toward the steps I had covered in the first go-round.

I could have tried searching for the second of the two locations cited in that error message: 36EEF7D8-88AD-4E81-AD49-0E313F0C35F8. But in the meantime, the other development of interest was that, for some reason, the problem had gone away. Now I was able to go into Windows Update and other Control Panel items that I had not been able to access previously. Was this because of something I had done, or had the system somehow just healed itself? All I had done, since last getting the message, was to click that Circular box in perfmon.msc. At the moment, it appeared that that might have addressed this particular Server Execution Failed error.

Third Time Around

A week or so later, Windows Update notified me that it had an update, downloaded and ready to install. I let it install, rebooted as it required, and tried to go back into Windows Update, to see if there were any other updates. The system wouldn’t let me. Instead, the Server Execution Failed error message was back.

I went back into perfmon.msc as described above. Sure enough, the Circular box was unchecked. Was the update unchecking it? I checked it, exited out, clicked Apply and then OK to close the ReadyBoot Properties dialog, and tried again. The system still wouldn’t let me back into Windows Update. Had that not been the solution, last time around? Had I done a System Restore to an earlier time, for some other reason, bringing back the problem without meaning to? I didn’t think so, but I couldn’t swear to it.

I ran a System Restore, to the point immediately before installing the Windows Update. When the restore was done, I looked at perfmon.exe. The Circular box was not checked. I checked it. Then I went into Windows Update. The system wouldn’t let me and, as usual during that minute of waiting for the Server Execution Failed error message, the Start button and the taskbar were unresponsive. So it seemed that the Circular box was not fixing the problem, and the Windows Update was not causing it. Now what?

I thought maybe that change from 20MB to 60MB in Performance Monitor would make a difference after all. So I made that change. Then I rebooted and tried again to access Windows Update. It worked: I was in Windows Update. Was it the reboot, or was it the 60MB setting? It appeared to be the latter.

Now that I was in Windows Update, I saw that it was once again ready to install that latest update. The update in question was Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB2929437). I went ahead with it, knowing that System Restore would make a backup point before installing the update. Once again, the update ran and required a reboot. After the reboot, I went back into Performance Monitor. Circular was checked; file size was 60MB. I went into Windows Update. Or … not. Server Execution Failed. So it did seem that the update was causing the problem, and it seemed that the changes in Performance Monitor had not achieved anything after all.

I ran a search, to see if anyone else was having this problem. Almost no one. In a broader search, it looked like a few people might have been having problems, but not this particular kind of problem.

I ran a System Restore, back to the point before the update. I tried to go back into Windows Update. Server Execution Failed. Why? System Restore had given me a confirmation that it had successfully rolled the system back to an earlier time. I tried the “control /name Microsoft.WindowsUpdate” command mentioned above. It gave me a more detailed Server Execution Failed message, as before. It was the same detailed message as before.

This was baffling. I verified that I was still having difficulty getting into other Control Panel items as well (e.g., Performance Information and Tools). It occurred to me that I had neglected to temporarily suspend my antivirus program while running the System Restore. On previous occasions, it had warned me that this would not work. This time around, it had not warned me. So maybe I had gotten a false assurance that the System Restore had succeeded, when in fact it had not?

I temporarily suspended the antivirus and tried System Restore again, reverting to the point just before the Windows Update. No, still unable to go into Windows Update. I tried another System Restore, reverting to a point before another batch of Windows Updates that I had installed earlier in the day. After that restore was completed, I tried again. Still unable to go into Windows Update! It seemed that the problem might be one that involved files unaffected by System Restore. (After all, System Restore did not completely reinstall Windows.) I tried once more, with a restore to the system state on the previous day. (It helped to have set aside a lot of disk space for System Restore points.) Yeah, that failed too. System Restore did not seem to be the solution to this problem. I restored the system to the latest System Restore point and tried to think of some other approach.

It occurred to me that some problems are fixed by simply shutting the computer down and letting its memory clear. As I recalled, 30 seconds were supposed to be sufficient for this, at least in the old days, but I gave it a half-hour. That, unfortunately, was not the solution. So I was stumped. I could only hope that, as in the previous go-round, the thing would somehow heal itself.

What happened instead was that the whole Windows installation soon proceeded to become erratic. Keys were typing themselves; all sorts of weird things were happening. The machine was possessed. I responded with that tried and true solution: I reinstalled Windows from an Acronis backup. Then I immediately installed all pending Windows Updates. Ultimately, however, this did not solve the problem.

Fourth Time Around

Eventually, the problem came back. For a while, I thought I had a solution: go to Microsoft’s FixIt Center > Windows Media Player > All Windows Media Player problem areas > Fix Windows Media Player video, and other media or library issues > Run Now > download and run the tool.

But then that stopped working. I tried the suggestion of going to Start > Run (or command prompt) > services.msc > play around with the Remote Procedure Call locator service. But the notes right there in Services indicated that this service had no functionality in Windows 7. I suspected the writer had brought this advice over from Windows XP. This step did not in fact have any benefit for me.

Since multiple comments revolved around Windows Media Player, I thought I might want to uninstall or at least disable it. Unfortunately, in Normal and Safe Mode alike, I was not able to get into Control Panel or Programs and Features to do that. Typing appwiz.cpl at the Command Prompt likewise merely brought up another instance of the Server Execution Failed notice.

Another search took me to a discussion in which someone highlighted two registry locations as the source of the problem. They appeared to be the registry addresses highlighted earlier in this post. I went to those addresses and took a look at the precise values they were talking about.

This time around, it occurred to me: at this moment, those addresses were not available. They were unavailable because they were located on an encrypted drive that I had not yet mounted. I mounted the drive and tried to start Windows Explorer, go into Control Panel, go into Programs and Features. Suddenly everything worked fine.

The solution, at least at this point, appeared to be just that I had to make sure that the drives that the registry would look for — the ordinary system drives, as distinct from external USB and other random drives — were connected and mounted.

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4 Responses to Windows 7: Server Execution Failed

  1. Kijo says:

    This can also happen when you delete or rename the folders located inside of your “My Documents” folder. (C:\Users*yourusername)

    The registry thinks these folders exist. If you rename or delete them, there becomes a conflict in the registry when you make an action or call upon that folder.

    I have seen complete desktops lock up and act like the hard drive with the OS isn’t even connected the system.

    You can delete or rename those folders, but you need to omit those entries from the registry.

  2. jsteinberg48 says:

    Kijo, that is my problem. How do you fix it? I was trying to move my documents, downloads off and SSD boot disk and onto another drive; I then did the Windows update and I got the problem with no control panels working at all. How did you fix it?

  3. sebas says:

    got the same problem. I was migrating the documents from one laptop to another, using move. The original laptop got the server execution failed error, but according with this post, I fixed the documents location via registry. Thanks a lot for sharing your problem.

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