How to remove unknown “Program” or invalid characters entry from Startup Apps List?

April 18, 2019 |

greater than 5 minutes

Some third-party programs are designed to place their entries in the Windows Startup directory so that they become Startup apps, which means your system becomes set up to launch their processes or services automatically after your PC boots up. While some applications truly deserve the privileges afforded to Startup items, you are better off keeping as few apps as possible in your list of Startup items.

In this guide, we aim to examine an issue that affects the Startup programs setup. You probably ended up on this page because you want to learn how to remove invalid and unknown characters from the Windows 10 Startup Apps list.

First, we have to assume that you saw the items in view in the Task Manager application window (as other users did). Well, in most reports, something about a blank document icon being placed beside the unknown program was mentioned, but we could not figure out anything useful from this detail.

Or you might have seen other strange entries in the Startup program list – especially those that contain invalid or rarely used characters. Some users even reported seeing rectangles (and similar shape images) or weird objects as their application icon.

Why are there invalid items or weird programs in the list of Startup programs on my system?

The strange or abnormal program entry you saw once belonged to a regular application on your computer. You probably uninstalled the app, but its uninstaller (or uninstallation wizard) failed to perform the required data-removal tasks correctly. The program’s entries were supposed to have been deleted, but some of them ended up remaining in their default locations – especially the entries that define the program as a Startup app.

Now, you must understand that Windows is programmed to load up Startup apps through their executable files, but since you uninstalled the application in view, its executable file is likely to have been deleted. Executable files for programs are hardly ever left behind after the uninstallation operations have reached completion. Even poorly-coded installers manage to do the business with them.

Well, since the program’s executable file is gone (and Windows cannot find it), your system is forced to display the title “Program” (in place of the application’s real name). Now, you surely understand where those Program entries come from or why they appear in your list of Startup applications.

However, for the applications whose names consist of invalid characters or rarely used symbols, there is a good chance that a rogue or malicious program worked to place those items there. Some unauthorized operations might have been executed (most likely without your knowledge) to replace genuine apps with those strange items.

How to get rid of the “Program” entry or invalid characters entry from the Startup programs list on Windows 10

If you want to stop seeing the “Program” entry in the list of Startup items in Task Manager, you have to delete the entry (that corresponds to it) from the Windows registry.

Before you move on to carry out the necessary tasks through the Registry Editor app, we have to warn you of the risks and complications associated with work performed on the registry.

For one, mistakes might prove quite costly. For example, if you delete the wrong entry, you might find yourself confronted by problems more serious than the one you intend to tackle now. We advise that you copy the contents of your computer registry and package them as a single item. Place the copied file in a safe place. This way, it serves as a backup from which you can quickly restore things (if complications or problems arise).

Once you are ready to perform the necessary tasks, you have to go through these instructions:

  • First, you have to launch the Registry Editor app. It is the program through which users get to access the contents of the Windows registry and make changes to the items stored there (when they have to).

Press the Windows logo button on your device’s keyboard (and hold that button), and then give the letter R key a tab. The small Run program window will be displayed now.

Input regedit into the text field present on the application window, and then click on the OK button below it to get Windows to execute the code (or you can give the Enter key a tap).

The Registry Editor app window will be displayed now.

  • Starting from the items you see on the left-pane area of the window, you must navigate through this path: HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Run

If you went through the correct directories, then you will end up in a location where your system displays some String values on the right-pane area of the Registry Editor program window.

  • Go through the String items. They contain the entries for various Startup programs. The entries we are referring to here correspond to the full path for the executable files linked to appropriate Startup apps.

Basically, if you see a String value that reads the correct path for the executable file of an application you already uninstalled, then that String value must be deleted. It might be the String value through which Windows continues to display the “Program” entry, so it has to go.

  • To delete a value or entry, you have to right-click on it to see the available options and then click on Delete.

Once the String that corresponds to the “Program” entry (under the Startup items in Task Manager) gets removed, you will no longer see the “Program” entry.

Furthermore, if you find a String value that holds invalid characters or rarely used symbols, you must get rid of that String value. Hopefully, the weird items in the Startup programs list will go away (if Windows stops loading up data for them).

  • You must also go through these paths for other directories holding relevant string items:
  1. HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ RunOnce
  2. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Run
  3. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ RunOnce
  4. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ WOW6432Node \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Run
  5. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ WOW6432Node \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ RunOnce
  6. HKEY_USERS \ .DEFAULT \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Run

The same guidelines apply to the items you find in those locations. Delete the String values for the applications that not currently installed on your computer.

With the proposed procedure, if you do everything correctly, then all the “Program” entries (in the list of Startup programs for your computer in the Task Manager application) should disappear.

If the weird items or unusual files formed from rarely used characters remain, then you have to consider running scans on your computer for viruses and malware. Launch your antivirus and continue things from there.

If you manage to isolate or quarantine the malicious items on your PC, then you will be able to get rid of them altogether and even go a step further to delete all components or entries associated with them.

In any case, scan processes and file-removal operations from multiple security applications are likely to benefit you. One program might detect threats missed by other apps, or it might remove items that other apps failed or refused to delete.

A different security utility like Auslogics Anti-Malware, for example, might succeed where others have failed. You will do well to run the recommended application, initiate the scan operations available in its program window, and then get rid of all the malicious or problematic items it detects.

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