Have you ever opened the Task Manager on your Windows 11 or Windows 10 computer and noticed an unknown program called “Program” listed in the Startup tab? An unknown program in the Startup tab often appears without any publisher information, and often has a blank or generic icon.
This can be a cause for concern, especially if you’re not sure what the program is or if it’s potentially harmful. In this article, we’ll explore how to investigate unknown programs in the Task Manager Startup tab and what steps you can take to manage them effectively.
What is the “Program” program showing up in Windows 11/10 Task Manager Startup tab?
An unknown program in the Startup tab of Task Manager means that a program is set to start automatically with Windows, but its information is not fully available. This can happen when a program is not installed correctly, or when its publisher information is not registered in the Windows registry. While an unknown program in the Startup tab can be harmless, it is important to investigate it further to make sure it is not malware or other potentially harmful software.
How to check what the unknown program is in the Startup tab?
To check what the unknown program is in the Task Manager Startup tab, you can right-click the column header in the Startup tab in Task Manager and enable the “Startup type” and “Command line” options.
The “Startup type” option will show you whether the program is a registry or folder startup type. The “Command line” option will show you the full path to the program in question.
You can now browse to the location of the program in question and see whether it exists in the folder. If the program does exist, you can try running it to see what it does. If you determine that the program is unnecessary, you can disable it from starting up with Windows by right-clicking on it in the Startup tab and selecting “Disable.” If the program does not exist, it may be an invalid entry and can be removed using the registry editor as outlined in the next section.
What to do if the program doesn’t exist in the folder?
If the program does not exist in the folder, it indicates that the unknown program listed in the Task Manager Startup tab is an invalid entry. If the entry doesn’t bother you, you may choose to leave it as it is. Alternatively, you can remove the invalid entry using the registry editor.
Note that editing the registry can be risky and may cause irreversible damage to your system if done incorrectly. It is recommended that you create a system restore point or backup of your registry before making any changes. Also, be cautious when removing or editing entries in the registry editor, as removing the wrong entry can potentially cause issues or even render your system unusable. If you are unsure about editing the registry, consider seeking the help of a professional technician.
To remove the invalid startup entry using the registry editor, follow these steps:
- Open the Start menu and type “Registry Editor” in the search bar.
- Click on the “Registry Editor” app to open it.
- Navigate to the following path:
- Each key in the right-pane represents a program that is enabled as a startup program. Locate the entry for the unknown program.
- To remove it, right-click on the entry and select “Delete“.
- Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer.
The unknown program entry may also be located in any of the following registry paths. You can check each of these registry locations and delete the entry if you find it:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
Keep in mind that if you have disabled the unknown program in the Task Manager Startup tab, the entry will be located in different registry paths. The following registry paths store entries for programs that have been disabled as startup programs:
Use Autoruns to remove the unknown program startup entry
To prevent unknown programs from appearing in the Task Manager Startup tab, you can use a program like Autoruns to manage your startup entries. Autoruns is a free program from Microsoft that allows you to view and manage all startup programs and services on your computer. It provides more detailed information about each entry and allows you to disable or remove them easily.
To use Autoruns to remove the unknown program startup entry, follow these steps:
- Download Autoruns from the Microsoft website and install it on your computer.
- Open Autoruns and click on the “Logon” tab.
- Scroll through the list of programs until you find the entry for the unknown program.
- Right-click on the entry and select “Delete“.
- Confirm the deletion by clicking “Yes“.
Once you have removed the unknown program entry from Autoruns, restart your computer to see if the issue has been resolved.
However, be careful when using Autoruns as disabling critical system programs can cause serious issues. Before removing or disabling any startup programs, make sure you research the program to determine if it is necessary for your system to function properly.
What if you don’t recognize the program?
If you don’t recognize the program, you should do a quick online search to see if it is a known program or if it is potentially harmful. You can search the program name or the full path that is shown in the “Command line” option in Task Manager. If you determine that the program is harmful or unwanted, you should remove it using an anti-malware program such as Windows Defender.
Suggested read: How to Know Which App is Using The Internet in Windows 11
It is important to differentiate between malware and an unknown program. Malware is a type of software designed to harm your computer or steal personal information, while an unknown program may simply be an outdated, unrecognized program or an error for a startup program that no longer exists. Users should always investigate unknown programs to ensure that they are not harmful.
If you do recognize the program but are still unsure if it is authentic, you can check the program’s digital signature. A digital signature is a way for publishers to verify the authenticity of their software. To check the digital signature, right-click the program file and select “Properties.” Then, click on the “Digital Signatures” tab to see the certificate information.
Run System File Check
If the unknown program in the Task Manager Startup tab is related to a Windows system file, you can try running a System File Check (SFC) to scan for and repair any corrupted or missing system files. The SFC tool is built into Windows and can be accessed via the Command Prompt.
To run a System File Check, follow these steps:
- Open the Command Prompt as an administrator.
sfc /scannowand press Enter.
- The SFC tool will scan your system for corrupted or missing files and repair them automatically if possible.
Once the scan is complete, restart your computer and check the Task Manager Startup tab again to see if the unknown program entry has been resolved.
Note that the SFC tool may take some time to complete, and it may require an internet connection to download any missing or corrupted files. If the SFC tool is unable to repair any files, you may need to perform more advanced troubleshooting or seek the help of a professional technician.
The bottom line
An unknown program in the Task Manager Startup tab can be alarming, but it is important to investigate it further to make sure it is not malware or other potentially harmful software. By checking the “Command line” option in Task Manager, you can determine the full path of the program and take appropriate action.
If you don’t recognize the program, you should do a quick online search to determine if it is harmful or unwanted. By using Autoruns or other startup management tools, you can prevent unknown programs from appearing in the Startup tab in the future.