How to Find Hidden Programs Running on My Computer

by C. Taylor

Not all programs are proudly displayed on a tab on your Windows taskbar. Some are intentionally hidden from view because they act as legitimate background processes or services that don't require constant access via the taskbar. Some programs remain open but hidden from view, even after you close them. This is a common practice with peer-to-peer utilities that want to remain open, so other users can download shared files from your computer. Still other programs may be malicious spyware intent on capturing your information. Using the Windows Task Manager or Services tool will help track down active process and services, even if they are hidden from view.

Windows Task Manager

Press "Ctrl-Shift-Esc" to open Windows Task Manager.

Click the "Processes" tab.

Scroll through the list to view active processes on your computer. This list displays visible and hidden programs. Look at the Name and Description to help identify the process. Additional information is commonly available by searching online for the process name.

Right-click any active process and select "End Process" to end the program. Close Windows Task Manager.

Services Tool

Click the "Start" button, type "services" and click "Services" from the search results.

Click the "Status" column header to sort the list by status. Services listed as "Started" are currently running.

Click any service and look at the left pane for a description. Although most services are installed by Windows, several programs add automatic services to this list.

Right-click any service and select "Stop" to deactivate the service.


  • Always maintain an up-to-date virus and spyware scanner and regularly run scans. This will help prevent and remove hidden spyware and malware from your computer. Some persistent viruses may require booting from the virus scanner's bootup disc.
  • Some programs will run automatically again at startup. To stop them from running, press "Win-R," type "msconfig" and press "Enter" to run the System Configuration Utility. Click the "Startup" tab and uncheck any program to keep it from running at startup. Click "Apply" to save your settings. To stop services from running automatically, double-click the service to open its properties window. Click the "Startup Type" drop-down list and select "Disable" to disable it. Alternatively, select "Manual" to only run it when an action requires it. Click "Apply."

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