Recently this icon started to appear in my Windows 7 x64 task switcher (the one that is currenly selected in the screen shot below). It has no title and there is no visible window associated with this task, i.e. I cannot bring it into the foreground and I cannot close it using Alt-F4.

I have not been able to identify the process that creates it. It is always there, even immediately after logging on. I sifted through all the processes using ProcessExplorer. I killed every process that is non-essential, but the icon was still showing up. I looked at everything in Autoruns, but did not find a suspicious entry.

Can someone recommend a tool or technique for how to find the process that creates this icon?

Task Switcher

  • 3
    It's a generic icon. This is going to be fun. . . – surfasb Jan 20 '12 at 21:11
  • try maleware bytes anti malware or ccleaner... – Piotr Kula Jan 20 '12 at 21:25
  • With a combination of Spy++ (from the Visual Studio tools) and Process Explorer I have narrowed it down to an Explorer thread, but I still don't know which one. I checked all Explorer extensions in Autoruns and everything looks legit. I also ran the Sophos Rootkit Scanner. It found nothing. I will run Malware bytes now. I don't think this is malware, though.. – cdonner Jan 20 '12 at 22:39
  • Good call with Spy++. – surfasb Jan 20 '12 at 23:59

In these situation, it is best not to assume. Fire up msconfig and turn off all startup programs and all non-Microsoft Services.

Start from the bottom and go up. If you start from the middle and can't find it, then it is likely you were searching in the wrong direction. Let us try the other direction.

  • Thanks for the tip with msconfig, but because this was apparently cause by an explorer extension, turning off startup programs and services did not help. Still, it was a quick test. – cdonner Jan 21 '12 at 2:55

I ended up disabling all Explorer shell extensions in Autoruns. After a reboot, the window was gone from the task switcher. I then turned them on again one by one and was able to get everything back, but the rogue window did not reappear. I suspect that this was caused by one of the Acrobat shell extensions, but I can't say what happened exactly. Maybe an error dialog of some sorts that was popped up by the otherwise headless DLL.

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