The “ShellExecuteEx Failed; code 8235” error usually comes with the “A referral was returned from the server” message. You may encounter this error when you try to install a program or open an application.

What Does the “ShellExecuteEx Failed; Code Error 8235. A Referral Was Returned from the Server” Error Mean?

This error message is an indication that some security policies are preventing you from performing a certain action. The policies might be some default restrictions or some adjustments made via an update, for example. The problem may also reside with the program or setup that you’re working with.

In this article, you’ll learn how to fix the ShellExecuteEx Failed error.

How to Resolve the ShellExecuteEx Failed Error

To get rid of the problem, you’ll have to make sure the file or program you’re working with isn’t denied access because it doesn’t have the required privileges. In this article, you’ll find out how to relax certain restrictions and remove roadblocks that shouldn’t be there.

Follow the solutions below one after the other and in the order that we have arranged them.

Use Administrator Permissions

If you’re experiencing the error whenever you want to install a program, right-click on the installer and select Run as Administrator. Click on the Yes option once the User Account Control dialog window pops up.

The installer might require permission to write files to some protected system directories. Make sure you’re logged into an administrator account before you perform this operation. Also, it’s important that you verify the legitimacy of the installer you’re about to run, as granting a malicious program admin access can wreak havoc that your PC might not recover from.

Grant the Program Admin Privileges

If the error keeps showing up whenever you try to launch a program, then grant it admin privileges. Windows might be blocking the application from accessing certain system files that it needs to run properly.

You can either right-click on the program and select Run as Administrator any time you want to open it or make changes to its properties. These steps will show you how to prompt Windows to run the program as an administrator whenever you launch it:

  1. Launch a File Explorer window and navigate to the installation folder of the program.
  2. Locate its executable file, right-click on it, and then click on Properties.
  3. If you have a desktop shortcut to the exe file, right-click it and click on Properties.
  4. If there is no desktop shortcut to the file and you don’t know how to locate it, follow these steps:
  • Open the Start menu and search for the program.
  • Once it appears in the results list, right-click it, hover your mouse pointer over More, and then select Open File Location.
  • You’ll be taken to a folder where you’ll see the program’s Start menu shortcut.
  • Right-click on the shortcut and select Open File Location.
  • The program’s installation folder will now appear.
  • You can now right-click on its executable file and select Properties.
  1. After the Properties window opens, go to the Compatibility tab.
  2. Click on the “Change settings for all users” button.
  3. On the next dialog window, check the box for “Run this program as an administrator”, and then click on the OK button.
  4. You can now run the program and check whether the error message appears again.

Adjust UAC Settings

The error message could be popping up because your current UAC policy is too stringent. The highest security policy prompts Windows to scrutinize and block operations that you might consider basic.

While it’s important that you maintain a reasonable level of security for your system, you can relax some tough measures to prevent issues like this from needlessly occurring. The following steps will show you how to lower your UAC policy:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select Run or press the Windows and R keys together to launch the Run dialog box.
  2. After Run opens, type “Control Panel” (don’t add the quotes) into the text field, and then click on the OK button.
  3. Once the Control Panel window opens, click on User Accounts.
  4. Click on User Accounts again on the next page.
  5. Next, click on “Change User Account Control settings”.
  6. Now, on User Account Control’s Settings window, drag the slider down a step or two from Always Notify towards Never Notify. The box to the right will describe the security level for you.
  7. Click on the OK button, and then go back to check whether the problem persists.

Log In to the Hidden Administrator Account and Install the Program

If you’re experiencing the issue with a single executable file, then you can resolve it by signing in to the hidden admin account, which has higher privileges. You’ll have to activate the account via the Command Prompt utility. We recommend that you open Command Prompt from the Windows Recovery Environment.

The steps below will show you how to do that:

  1. Press and hold your power button to force your PC to shut down.
  2. Turn on the computer and force it to shut down again after the logo of your system’s manufacturer shows up.
  3. Repeat Step 2 twice and you’ll see the “Please wait” message.
  4. On the Automatic Repair screen, click on the Advanced Options button.
  5. On the Choose an Option screen, click on Troubleshoot.
  6. Now, click on Advanced Options under Troubleshoot, and then click on Command Prompt.
  7. Once the Command Prompt loads, type in the following and hit Enter:

Net user administrator /active:yes

  1. Restart your PC, log in to the admin account, and then try performing the operation.

Make the File’s Signature a Trusted One

You can let Windows know that the executable file that you want to run or install is legitimate by adding its signature as a trusted signature. While this process is a bit complicated, some users have confirmed that it worked for them. So, carefully follow these steps to apply the fix:

  1. Launch a File Explorer window and navigate to the installation folder of the program.
  2. Locate its executable file, right-click on it, and then click on Properties.
  3. If you have a desktop shortcut to the exe file, right-click it and click on Properties.
  4. If there is no such shortcut and you don’t know how to locate the file, follow these steps:
  • Open the Start menu and search for the program.
  • Once it shows up in the results list, right-click it, hover your mouse pointer over More, and then select Open File Location.
  • You’ll be taken to a folder where you’ll see the program’s Start menu shortcut.
  • Right-click on the shortcut and select Open File Location.
  • The program’s installation folder will now appear.
  • You can now right-click on its executable file and select Properties.
  1. After the Properties window opens, go to the Digital Signatures tab.
  2. Click on the signature under Signature List, then click on Details.
  3. Under Signer Information, click on View Certificate.
  4. On the next page, click on Install Certificate, and then click on Next.
  5. Once you get to the Certificate Import wizard, select “Place all certificates in the following store”, and then click on the Browse button. Write down the name of this certificate, as you’ll need it in the next step.
  6. Now, choose the Trusted Root Certification Authorities option, and then click OK.
  7. Click Next.
  8. Click Finish.
  9. You can now run the program and check whether the error persists.

You can take things further so that Windows won’t flag the program in the future. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Run dialog box by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Run from the Power User menu.
  2. Once Run opens, type “mmc” (no quotes) into the text field, and then click on OK.
  3. Click on Yes in the User Account Control dialog that pops up.
  4. After the Microsoft Management Console opens, click on File in the top-left corner of the window.
  5. Select “Add/remove snap-ins” once the context menu drops down.
  6. Once the “Add or remove snap-ins” window opens, navigate to the left pane and click on Certificates under Available Snap-Ins.
  7. Click on the Add button, and then click on OK.
  8. Now, on the main MMC interface, right-click on Certificates and click on Find Certificates.
  9. Enter the name of the certificate you wrote down earlier and click on the Find Now button.
  10. When you see the certificate, right-click it, and then select Properties.
  11. Switch to the General tab and select “Enable only the following purposes”.
  12. Uncheck every other box save the one for “Code Signing”.
  13. That should do it! You can now check whether the error persists.

Uninstall Problematic Windows Updates

If you started seeing the problem after updating your system, try uninstalling the update. Microsoft updates may even cause conflicts that prompt the company to undo them. While issues like these are hardly widespread, they happen in unique situations.

If you don’t know how to uninstall an update, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on the Start button and select Settings.
  2. After the Settings application opens, click on Update & Security.
  3. Once the Update & Security interface opens, switch to the Windows Update page and click on View Update History.
  4. Take note of the KB number of the last update you installed before the problem started showing up.
  5. Now, go to the top of the window and click on Uninstall Updates.
  6. You’ll be taken to the Control Panel’s Programs and Features window. Locate the KB, click on it, and then click on Uninstall.
  7. Follow the subsequent instructions until the process is complete.
  8. Restart your system and check whether the error shows up again.

Make Changes to the System Registry

You can use this workaround to instruct Windows to allow certain executable files that aren’t signed and validated.

However, before you start, make sure you back up the system registry so that you can recover it if anything goes wrong. So, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Windows and R keyboard buttons together to open the Run dialog window.
  2. After Run opens, type “regedit” (no quotes), and then hit the Enter key.
  3. Click on Yes in the User Account Control dialog window.
  4. Once the Registry Editor opens, click on File, then select Export from the menu.
  5. Select the folder where you’d like to save the file, enter the name of the file, select All under Export Range, and then click on Save.
  6. Whenever you want to recover your registry to undo the changes you made, open the Registry Editor, click on File, and then select Import. Navigate to the folder where you saved the backup file and double-click it.

Now, follow these steps to apply the changes:

  1. Go to the left pane of the Registry Editor and expand the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder.
  2. Expand SOFTWARE.
  3. Under SOFTWARE, navigate to Microsoft and expand it.
  4. Next, expand Windows, and then look for the CurrentVersion folder and open it.
  5. Head to Policies, and then single-click on System.
  6. Head to the right side of the window and double-click on ValidateAdminSignatures.
  7. Now, set Value data to 0.
  8. Restart your system and check whether the problem is resolved.

You can also apply the same setting using the Group Policy Editor if you use Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise. Follow these steps:

  1. Press the Windows and R keyboard buttons together to open the Run dialog window.
  2. After Run opens, type “gpedit.msc” (no quotes), and then hit the Enter key.
  3. After the Group Policy Editor opens, go to the left pane and expand Windows Settings under Computer Configuration.
  4. After that, head to Security Settings and expand it.
  5. Expand Local Policies.
  6. Go to Security Options and click on it.
  7. Navigate to the middle pane, scroll down to “User Account Control: Only elevate executables that are signed and validated” and double-click it.
  8. On the next dialog window, select Disabled, and then click OK.
  9. The problem should now be resolved.

Restore Your System

If you were able to run the program in the past without seeing the error, then it’s possible that some changes made to your system might be the cause of the issue. These changes could be installing or uninstalling drivers and third-party programs. To resolve the issue, take your system back to an earlier date when everything worked fine.

The following steps will guide you:

  1. Right-click on the Start button or press the Windows and E keyboard buttons together to open the File Explorer window.
  2. After File Explorer opens, go to the left pane, right-click on This PC, and then click on Properties.
  3. After the System window opens, go to the left pane and click on System Protection.

Note: In new Windows 10 builds, you’ll be taken to the Settings application’s About page. Go to the right pane and click on System Protection.

  1. Click on System Restore once you see the System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog.
  2. Click on Next once the first page of the wizard opens.
  3. Now, select a restore point and click on Next.
  4. Click Finish and allow the tool to do the job.
  5. Run the program or installer and check whether the “A referral was returned from the server” error shows up again.

Conclusion

If you have any questions about the “ShellExecuteEx Failed; error code 8235” problem or can’t resolve the issue, leave a comment below.

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