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Windows explorer folder view right click not working

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I'm at my desktop (vista ultimate 64, 3GB Mem, huge pagefile, 3.2GHz quad core).
I bring up windows explorer, and in the left pane I have folder view and on the right pane, details. I have selected to open each folder in the same window.
If I right click any file or folder in the right pane, all goes well.
If I right click any folder or drive except for "Recycle Bin" in the left pane, Windows explorer stops working and windows searches for a fix that is never found.
I tried disabling ALL of the context extensions, no joy.
This is consistent.

The event viewer shows:
Faulting application explorer.exe, version 6.0.6002.18005, time stamp 0x49e02a1e, faulting module SHELL32.dll, version 6.0.6002.18005, time stamp 0x49e041ef, exception code 0xc0000005, fault offset 0x000000000004090c, process id 0x%9, application start time 0x%10.

booted to C: prompt and ran sfc /scannow and then chkdsk /f/r etc and then another sfc /scannow
reboot to vista, same problem.

tried booting from dvd and doing a install repair.
reboot from hard drive - same problem.

this started a few weeks ago and due to some software and data, I can't go back to a restore point before that point (as if that will help, given the above).

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