How to Find Hidden Programs Running on My Computer

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At any given time, there may be hidden programs running on your computer. Some of these processes are merely part of your Windows operating system. Others may be viruses, adware or spyware that have been hidden from view. The best way to find these hidden programs is by using Windows Task Manager and Computer Management functions. Both of these tools list the hidden processes that are currently running on your computer, but they do so in different ways.

Use Task Manager to Find Hidden Programs

  1. Press "Ctrl-Alt-Delete." and then click select "Task Manager." Click "Processes" to show a list is of all the processes that are currently running on your computer. Look in the Image Name column to see the name of the process that is running. Look in the "Memory" column to see how much memory the process is using.

  2. Press "Windows-E" to launch "Open Windows Explorer." Select the "View" tab, click "Options" and then click "Change folder and search options." Click the 'View" tab in the Folder Options window, select "Show Hidden Files and Folders" and then click "OK."

  3. Press "Windows-S" to open the Search pane. Type the name of the hidden program you are searching for. The program should appear in the search results.

  4. Right-click the file in the search results and click "Open File Location." Browse the folder to see what program the process belongs to. If you can't gather any information about the program from your computer, use the file name to search online at or a similar site. Library sites such as these can give you critical information about whether a file is a system file, a virus, adware or spyware.

Use Computer Management to Find Hidden Programs

  1. Press "Windows-R" to open a Run box. Type "compmgmt.msc" into the "Run" field and press "Enter." In the Computer Management window, click the "+" beside Services and Applications and click "Services."

  2. Navigate through the window to see what processes are installed on your computer. Look under the Name field to find the full name of the application. Click on "Name" to see a description of the program. Look under "Status" to see whether or not the application is running. Look under "Start-Up Type" to see whether the application is started manually or automatically.

  3. Right-click on the application name and select "Properties." Make a note of the path and the file name of that application. Click on the "Dependencies" tab to see what programs depend on the process to run.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are third-party software programs that can help you to find hidden programs more easily than with Windows. Applications such as Ad-Aware, BOClean and Malwarebytes are all free programs you can download and install to find and eradicate malicious hidden programs.
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