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I have an "icon" in my Windows (XP, if it matters) notification area (by the clock) which renders no image, but rather an empty square space (no borders -- nothing rendered at all in the space where you'd expect an icon). Upon mousing over this space, it immediately collapses (disappears), preventing me from gathering any information about it.

I'm assuming the collapse (on mouseover) indicates the process is no longer running.

How can I learn what process is painting this "void" in my notification area? I don't control the workstation, so I can't control what launches when.

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Interesting question. Have you had any success with any of the suggestions below? – nhinkle Sep 12 '10 at 5:26
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I would use ProcMon's timeline to show you what processes started and exited. Once you know what process was running you can find out why it started using Autoruns. You might be able to start with Autoruns first but as it is exiting it might be hard to find who already exited.

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I would reboot and check your event viewer. If you need directions let me know. Event viewer should give you an indication of what failed on startup, which based on your description is what is happening.

There is a service or process firing and dying during the boot process that creates the system tray icon.

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Normally this is a program, not service. – harrymc Sep 9 '10 at 18:55
@harrymc - in my experience in XP it's normally a startup process. I'll change terminology for you :) – JNK Sep 9 '10 at 18:57

Well it starts with windows so it has to be a start up process. If the process dies right away so without administrator power you may not be able to determine what it is without third party programs.

If you do have admin access you could launch msconfig and remove any items from startup you aren't sure about and see if you can eliminate what it may be.

You can also find out with hijack this which should run regardless.

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Autoruns can list anything and everything that starts up with the computer.

It does not require installation, so may fit your requirements.

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If you have access to Visual Studio (not the free Express version though, I think) then the Spy++ program will let you query the window under the mouse to find out which application it's from. Or it looks like Winspector may be a free alternative. See some of the packages listed here:

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You could try clearing the Notification Area Icon cache with Notification Area Cleaner For Windows 7.

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