What is “Program” in Task Manager Startup Tab

When you open Task Manager and click on the Startup tab to manage auto-start entries, you may notice one or more entries showing up as “Program” showing up with a blank or generic icon and without any Publisher information.

unknown program entry in task manager startup tab command line

The unknown “Program” entries are most likely caused if both of the following conditions are true:

  1. The startup entry refers to an invalid or non-existent file under “Program Files” folder.
  2. The registry value data corresponding to that startup entry is not enclosed within double-quotes.

This article tells what does the “Program” entries in the Startup tab mean and how to get rid of those entries.

What is “Program” in Task Manager Startup Tab

To identify and fix the unknown “Program” entries in the Startup tab of Task Manager, follow these steps:

  1. Start Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), and select the Startup tab
  2. Right-click on the column header and enable these two options: Startup type and Command line
    task manager show command line and startup type
    Now the origin of the “Program” entries are displayed. You can now see the full path and command-line of that startup entry.
    unknown program entry in task manager startup tab

Fix 1: If the program (.exe) file is NOT present in the specified folder, then see article Remove invalid entries from Task Manager Startup tab to know how to remove the orphaned Startup entry in Task Manager via the Registry Editor or using the Autoruns utility from Microsoft.

In one example, the entry Realtek was causing the problem. The registry Run key had this entry:

Value name: Realtek

Data: C:\Program Files\Realtek\Audio\HDA\RAVCpl64.exe -s

The application had long back been uninstalled but the orphaned Startup entry remains.

The Startup entry could be located in any one of the following registry locations.



HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
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

Note that the “Disabled” startup entries in Task Manager are stored in this part of the registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StartupApproved\Run
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StartupApproved\Run

Fix 2: If the program (.exe) file is present in the specified folder (less likely):

  1. Start the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and go to each of the Run registry keys mentioned above.
  2. Locate the corresponding startup entry, double-click on it and add double-quotes around the file path.
    registry run entry add double quotes
  3. Exit the Registry Editor.Now, the Startup item shows up as below:
    unknown program entry in task manager startup tab

tips bulb icon

If the Publisher info is missing and the entry shows up as a generic icon as in the above screenshot, then the program is most likely missing. In that case, you may delete the orphaned Startup entry using the steps listed in Remove invalid entries from Task Manager Startup tab.

That’s it! You’ve now fixed/eliminated the suspicious “Program” entry from Task Manager Startup tab.


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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com 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.

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