How to Find Hidden Programs Running on My Computer

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Windows runs many hidden programs that don't display on the Windows task bar. You can find hidden processes and services using the Windows Task Manager and Services applications.

Display Hidden Processes

You can display hidden processes in the Windows Task Manager.

To open Windows Task Manager, enter task manager in the Windows 8 Search function and select the Task Manager application or press Ctrl-Shift-Esc.

Select the Processes tab. If the Task Manager does not show the Processes tab, first click on More details to show the tabs, then click the tab.

The Apps section of the Processes tab displays all the normal programs that are shown on the Windows Task Bar. View the Background processes section to find hidden processes.


It's usually not a problem if you have many background processes running. Most Windows computers have fifty or more background processes running, and there are often multiple copies of some programs running, such as browsers.

If you're unsure if one of the hidden processes is needed or you want to learn more about any hidden process, right-click the process and select Go to details.

The Details tab opens with the selected process highlighted. Read the Description field for the process to find out more about it.


If you want additional information about any process, find the Name field for the process in the Details tab, and search for it on a free process look-up site such as, or Solvusoft.

Startup Programs in Task Manager

Some of the hidden processes on your computer are started when you launch applications, and some run automatically on Windows startup. When you install new programs on your computer, they may add new programs to be launched on Windows startup, and over time this can slow down Windows as the number of hidden programs increases.

To find out what programs run automatically at Windows startup, open Task Manager and click the Startup tab.


Don't attempt to stop or disable the startup of any process unless you're sure you know what you're doing. Most of the programs displayed in the Task Manager Processes and Startup tabs are necessary for your computer and applications to function properly. Stopping or disabling the startup of some processes may cause errors or cause your computer to shut down or reboot.

Display Services

Services are programs that are started by Windows when the computer starts, before any users log in. Services are intended to run while hidden in the background, doing their jobs without you noticing them. Services can be displayed using the Services application.


The Task Manager also has a Services tab which displays all the services running on your computer. But the separate Services application is more helpful than the Task Manager tab, since the Services application includes a Description field that explains what each service does in more detail.

In the Windows 8 Search box, type services and select View local services. Select the Standard tab. The application displays the name and description of all services on your machine.

The Services application lists even services that aren't running. Services that are currently running display Running in the Status column. To easily view all running services, click the header of the Status column twice in a row to sort the services with the running services at the top of the list.


Don't stop or disable any service unless you're sure you know what you're doing. Most of the services displayed in the Services application are necessary for your computer to function properly, and stopping some services may cause errors or cause your computer to shut down or reboot.


If your computer behavior has changed and you suspect there's a hidden program interfering with your computer, run an anti-virus scanner to check your computer for malware. Panda Antivirus, Bitdefender and Microsoft Security Essentials are among several free online virus scanning & removal tools you can use to check your computer.