How to Find Which Program Caused An Unknown Error Message?

Error message dialog boxes usually have title bar text containing the application or process name that generated the error. You may sometimes come across a situation where an error message dialog appearing with no text in the title bar, leaving the user to guess which program caused the error.

Fig 1: Error message dialog with no title bar text.

Fig 2: Error message dialog with title bar text.

Using Process Explorer – "Find Windows’ Process" button

Imagine there are around 25 process showing up in the Task Manager and terminating each one at a time to track down the source process is a difficult task. To track it down quickly, use Process Explorer. It has a "Find Windows’ Process" (bulls-eye) button which lets you know the process name of a window that’s currently open.

Download Process Explorer and run it.

Click the bulls-eye button in the toolbar area, drag and drop it on the target window (i.e. the error message dialog that you want to track.) To make this possible, first you must keep the error message window and Process Explorer side by side.

Process Explorer automatically highlights the Process name that owns the target Window.

In case the highlighting doesn’t happen, restart Process Explorer elevated (Click the File menu and  and then click "Show Details for All Processes") and try again, just in case the source process that caused the error, is running elevated.

To know more about that process, double-click it and look at the "Image" tab.

Now you know which application had raised that error message. Start your troubleshooting from here!

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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.

8 thoughts on “How to Find Which Program Caused An Unknown Error Message?”

  1. Oh my god. Ive been using process explorer for years, but never knew this. Ive been so annoyed with error windows that I have no idea where come from. Thanks to you (and google).

  2. If the error message is visible in the task bar, you should also be able to go into Task Manager (ctrl+alt+del) and find it listed under the “Applications” tab, then right-click on its entry and hit “Go to Process” and it will tell you the name of the EXE that’s running.

    Unfortunately, Windows versions earlier than 6 (Vista) don’t have the option of showing the full path or command line to the process… If you have Vista or later though it comes in handy once in a while.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had a dialog box that kept raising itself but even a Google search couldn’t determine which application it was.

  4. Thank you. This helped me out. I had a window pop up announcing an error from and unknown source. I was concerned that it was evil. However, it was from a Samsung utility. Not friendly of Samsung.


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