Xbox and windows store apps cause explorer crash loop (black screen, flickering/flashing taskbar)

A Cautionary Tale

So recently my windows install has been having startup issues where the screen remains black and the taskbar flashes as explorer gets stuck in a crash loop, it then fails to reboot gracefully hanging during the reboot process. The confusing part to this was that it was intermittent but I came to understand that it never happens after a hard reset so must be related to the way windows starts up.

Many hours, days perhaps even a week were spent confirming that my gpu and windows install were not corrupted. I was about ready to banish windows (once again) to a VM…

It turns out that installing XBox games to a secondary hard drive i.e game drive causes some issue with the storage service, it seems that installing any windows store like app to a secondary drive can cause this issue.

Windows store apps are installed to a hidden system folder called WindowsApps on its installation disk but trying to delete this folder from within windows is problematic though as it can cause other issues.

Sometimes it seems deleting a windows store app can silently fail and the app will enter some indeterminate state that may cause other issues but can largely be felt by the unreclaimable free space it will take up unless you delete its files from the WindowsApps folder.

Unfortunately I have found that deleting this folder (possibly due to these broken uninstalled apps) can lead to massive system instability and a huge reduction in performance where it feels like your running windows on an IDE drive.

It may have also caused my second monitor to get stuck in mirror mode although it could also have been messed up during the explorer crash loop since installs and updates can still take place but will not complete gracefully.

In order to fix the issue I was finally forced to format and reinstall.

This issue seems to have been around for over 6 months so I wouldn’t expect a fix anytime soon.

tldr; If you must use the bug ridden XBOX app or windows store apps keep them to a single drive, although it doesn’t appear to affect everyone you might not want to roll the dice especially if you also have work you need to do.

(apologies if this rant is not tagged correctly, it’s an OS issue with Windows not necessarily an XBOX issue but most people are likely to encounter it if they decide to play halo 2 for example…)

Quick fix

You can still Ctrl+alt+Delete so you can bring up the task manager and launch services.msc by tactically clicking and typing one letter at a time.
If you scroll down and find Storage Service and disable its startup then your system will be usable, you can then manually launch the service at next boot and uninstall whatever apps are in your secondary drive.

Also interested in seeing if anyone else has encountered this or if they are running store apps on a secondary drive without issue.