Sunday, March 11, 2012

Right Mouse Click Stops Working

Problem: Windows 7's Right Mouse Click ("other-mouse-click" button) stops working after Office 2010 was installed.  Sadly, this article does not contain a great solution to the problem.

Right-Mouse click (aka Context menu) no longer works in any Office Application
Right-Mouse click does not work in Windows Explorer
Right-Mouse click works sporadically in Windows Explorer
Right-Mouse click does not work on desktop or start menu
Right-Mouse click does not work in other applications, such as Visual Studio, etc.

Quick Tests:
"other mouse-click" the desktop; confirm if the menu pops up
In Excel, other-mouse-click a cell; confirm if a context menu pops up

Initial Diagnostics:
This was not a hardware problem
This is not a control-panel, mouse-configuration problem
Installing or re-installing Mouse driver did not resolve the problem
De-installing recent software (e.g. Office 2010) did not resolve the problem

Another program has installed a Context Menu subsystem that was interfering with the operating system's menus. Knowing the history of my desktop computer, the most likely suspect was a recent Office-2010 upgrade (from Office 2007) or perhaps (unlikely) WinZip Pro. In both cases, de-installing did not resolve the problem.

I do not have definitive proof Office 2010 was the problem.  Other posts on the web point in this direction, but most noted the context menus did not work in MSWord.  I suspect context menus were failing everywhere.  There is a possibility a recent Microsoft Patch (on or about 2012.03.06) could have caused the issue.

Inconclusive Detailed Diagnostics:

Using a program called "ShellMenuView," you can selectively disable the shell menus for individual programs, until you find the culprit:

ShellMenuView v1.15 by Nir Sofer (safe for Windows 7)
Web Site:

This program is easy to use and understand.  It is recommended to disable all non-Microsoft context menus and reboot the computer to test.  Then, slowly re-enable each individual program until the problem-child is found.

What I discovered was the problem persisted, even after disabling all third-party, and then later, all Microsoft context menus.  Testing is tedious because after each change, it takes a reboot.  Additionally, I saw evidence where the context menu would work sometimes, but not others -- usually failing.  Results, even with this tool were inconclusive.

Brute-Force Solution 1:
You are not going to like this solution.  Normally, I like to find the actual problem, one that is more than un-install/re-install, but in this case, I could not find the answer.   I decided to restore a recent image backup and start over. 

I did this, using Acronis True Image, but found my most recent image still had the problem, which surprised me because this image was prior to Office 2010.  However, I had fiddled with I-nfopath Forms and One-Note.  That makes me a bad-boy for not having a solid backup. 

Prior images were too old to be useful.

Brute-Force Solution 2:
If you didn't like Solution 1, you won't like this one.  Because my machine was now several years old and has seen a lot of traffic, I thought it might be best to start over and do a bare-metal OEM install, rebuilding the machine from scratch.  It is like having a new computer and it would give me a lot of fodder for this blog.

Also, because I just had an appendectomy the other day, I had few better things to do.  I realize this won't help your computer.  I would have preferred a real solution.  Clearly, many people are having this issue.

Results:  Problem solved.  Although it took most of the day to rebuild, all Context menus work.  Office 2010 is installed; all patches applied. 

As a caution, prior to installing Office 2010, take an image backup, then test the context menus.  My guess is my context menus were damaged for several days, perhaps a week ago, and I had not noticed.  Admittedly, the machine "felt weird" during the past week, where expected features were not working.

Your unregistered comments on a better solution are welcome.

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