I am having the same problem. The only way I can open google chrome is to by typing in CTRL+ALT+DEL and it brings up the task manager box. I open "My Documents" and select a document within it to open with Google Chrome. Its the only way to get an active internet window open. Thats how I am able to access this webpage. All my desktop icons are gone, including task bar and start menu. When I type in "explorer.exe" it brings up the Documents window again.
Now there is a "Windows Explorer" error message that appears and asks me the usual if I would like to send or not send and it doesn't matter what I put in there, the whole screen bleeps out for a moment, I see all my icons and task bar and can access them until the same Windows Explorer message appears and at that point the only thing accessible is the Task Manager. I am also getting a "Data Execution Prevention" window which gives me no information and no resolution. From the Task Manager window, I have been able to start CCleaner and Malwarebytes, which detected an adware, isolated it and removed it from the Hard Drive, but the problem still persists. I added Avast a couple hours ago and it did a sweep before the OS started up and didnt find anything but the problem was still there.
I don't have the OS discs, my brother gave me his old computer. The only thing I can think of is to keep the computer running and keep these windows opened, as they are functioning and buy Windows 7 from Walmart this week.
Start the computer in safe mode. Instead of clicking on your user account, click the default administrator account. You will likely be able to see the taskbar and default desktop icons there.
Go to C:\documents and settings. Look for your user profile there. Right click on it, and go to the properties. If the 'hidden' box is checked, uncheck it, and click ok. You should be able to restart, and it should be fixed.
If that's not the issue, then go to the control panel-->user accounts, and create yourself a new profile. Your user profile may have been corrupted or damaged.
Your title says that everything is missing, but your post says 'a' icon is missing.
If everything is missing, and you just have a blank desktop, press ctrl+alt+delete-->open the task manager-->click file-->new task-->type explorer.exe-->press enter.
That should restore everything.
I know its two years since you posted your solution but you sir are my favorite human being.
I have 2 Assignments to Submit tomorrow for University and my Anti-Virus Software says it needs an update.
I update it and then Taskbar and Desktop icons disappear. I was panicking until I took your advice. You might have just saved my future career.