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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Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a consecutive ten-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in the Windows Shell/Desktop Experience category, from 2003 to 2012. He loves to troubleshoot and write about Windows. Ramesh founded Winhelponline.com in 2005.

29 thoughts on “What is “Program” in Task Manager Startup Tab”

  1. OMGoodness!!! It has taken me 3 hours to locate you, and only five minutes to correct and fix my problem. I tried sharing on Facebook but I didn’t see a change in the number of posts, even though I did it twice. YOUR HELP WAS A GOD SEND, because I was about to cry. I am gonna put this page in my favorites in case I have any other problems. I would also like to thank you for putting your answer in an easy to follow and extremely thorough fashion. I just cant THANK YOU enough!

    Reply
  2. You are a true windows warrior. I spent weeks trying to google solutions to get rid of that blank program on my startup. Thanks to you I found it!

    Reply
  3. Thank you very much! Could not find a solution anywhere else
    The additional information in the taskmanager autostart tab is truly helpful =)

    Reply
  4. Fantastic! Thank you very much!
    I’ve been looking for this for quite a long time, mostly due to customer infected PCs.

    Reply
  5. It was amazing for me because I spend much time to find this solution and became crazy and about to broken my LAPTOP. But you provide excellent solution and finally my Book Safe. 🙂 Thanks A Lot

    Reply
  6. Just finding out that I can add column headers to the Startup tab was worth the search and read of this excellent article! The Command Line column was particularly helpfule as it revealed which program created this “Program” startup! Thanks.

    Reply
  7. In my case. The “programm” app belongs to microsoft team app installer even the m.s team app installed but installer app running. found that after some scrolling and searches. now the programm app removed. thanks man u really deserve a thumps up 🙂

    Reply
  8. Thank you for this post, it helped a bunch. It turns out that the reason Microsoft Teams kept reinstalling after I had deleted it was because this unknown program is called Teams Installer, and had been set up to install every start-up if the Teams application was uninstalled. I guess if you don’t want something these days, it gets shoved down your throat instead.

    Reply
  9. Great tip! Use Task Manager a fair bit when problems arise, never knew you could add the different columns. Thanks dude!

    Reply
  10. the “Program” file is not dangerous or needed.
    the “Program” file is probably a deleted file from a software that you uninstalled before.
    if you want to delete it tho, you can do this:
    first, open task manager.
    then click the “startup” tab.
    then right-click one of the bars then click “Command line” and “Startup type”.
    then it will show you where the file is located.
    go to the file location and then delete the folder that the program file is in.
    and boom, it’s done.
    if you still see the program file disable it (just in case) and don’t worry it’s actually deleted.

    Reply
  11. Excellent article, a little known hidden feature of Task Manager. Very useful for tracking down fake malware startup entries with names that mimic genuine Windows applications.

    Reply

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