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By default, Windows 7 opens folders in the same process. This saves system resources, but means one folder crash can bring down the entire shell.
If your system seems unstable, or you’re doing something in Explorer that regularly seems to cause crashes, you can open Computer from the StartMenu, hold down Shift, right-click on your drive, and select Open in New Process. The folder will now be launched in a separate process, so a crash is less likely to affect anything else.