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I frequently review my task manager and msconfig startup items. There is a blank line in the list on the Startup Items list with a check in the check box. What is this item?

There are several places that items can get added to the startup list. This particular situation is most likely a malformed registry entry. MSConfig is a nice enough tool for simple situations, but to diagnose this one, I'd break out a bigger gun.

I had to, in fact. I looked, and sure enough ... I had a blank entry too.

Here's a snapshot of my MSConfig highlighting the blank entry:

MSConfig Startup List

"...sure enough ... I had a blank entry too."

You'll not that while there's a check mark, indicating the item is "enabled", there's nothing in the Startup Item text, nor is there anything in Command.

Now, if you like, you can stop here. This entry is totally benign. Since there is no Command, there is nothing happening at startup. You can safely leave it alone.

If, on the other hand, you want to clean it up ... well, that requires firing up the registry editor, or RegEdit.

First things first - since damaging the registry can cause some serious problems in Windows, be sure to backup the registry first.

Now, on the right hand side of that MSConfig display above, you'll see a column labeled Location. Scroll and expand that column, and you'll see that my empty item lists a location of:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

That's the location of the item in the windows registry. So fire up RegEdit (Start, Run, type RegEdit and press OK), and navigate in the left-hand pane to:

My Computer
  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (that's what "HKLM" is shorthand for)
    SOFTWARE
      Microsoft
        Windows
          CurrentVersion
            Run

In the right-hand pane you should now see a list of Name, Type and Data. These are the keys associated with the Run item.

Scroll down, and we notice that one has a name, but no data:

Blank Key in Regedit

That's our culprit. You can see that in my case it was something associated with "pdfSaver3". It could have been left over from an aborted install, or an incomplete uninstall. It's also possible that entries like this can result from viruses and spyware.

Regardless of where it came from, I deleted it, restarted MSConfig, and the empty line therein was also gone as a result.

Article C2454 - November 7, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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38 Comments
vic
November 25, 2005 8:47 PM

Hi Leo,

I have a blank entry too in msconfig (win xp home) and I unchecked it (bad advice from HP support) and rebooted and now when I put a check mark by it...it won't stay checked for me to find a blank entry in the "run" key. I didn't see any blank entrys in my run key (probably because it's unchecked). Any idea on how to get rid of this possible phantom (ran a virus scan and I'm clean).

Thanks,
vic

Leo
November 25, 2005 9:53 PM

I wouldn't worry about it. But if you care, it appear that MSConfig moves it to HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Shared Tools/MSConfig/startupreg

dan
November 27, 2005 10:37 PM

I have found a blank entry in Msconfig .. in a win xp pro box sp1 . this is how I told my friend to fix it.. I found it was something with java ..
1. go to START then RUN: type: regedit

2. browse to :
My Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Window\CurrentVersion\Run

3. Once in RUN look Under Name: "(Default)"
If you right chick on "(Default)" and click "Modify Binary Data", NOT "MODIFY in bold" and put 0 it will show "0 0" then make sure value is save and run msconfig... U will see the entry is not named and doesnt show the path. (Hideing)

4. If you do the same thing and right click "(Default)" and MODFIY BINARY DATA not the bold MODIFY and del the "0 0" entry and just add 1 it will show now "1 0" make sure its save F5 to refresh screen and now re-open msconfig... under startup it show now tell you the path .. I found out it was a program called Jusched.exe one we have running already install by JAVA in program Files.

5. to remove it the hidden entry just right click on (Default) and press Delete and agree to delete entry restart msconfig and should be gone.

it looks they just had another jusched.exe running but hidden from the API witch is consider a rootkit but ... its java so who knows what there doin .. ne ways hopes this helps ttyl

why is this happening leo can u please help im not even sure but know how to stop I just want to know WHY?

Rob
January 2, 2006 10:58 AM

Hi Leo,

msconfig in Win98se doesn't have any location column, right? What to do in such a case?

Thanks,

Rob

Aquarius
January 7, 2006 8:57 AM

On Dan's problem posted 11/27/2005, if you go to control panel and open up the Java Control Panel, go to the Update tab, and uncheck the button that says 'Check for updates automatically'. This will make the 'jusched.exe' go away in your startup menu.
HTH.

Rob
January 20, 2006 5:49 AM

To Aquarius,

Fine, but there's no Java Control Panel in Control Panel in Win98SE.
Rob

Rabby12
January 26, 2006 2:07 PM

My blank entry says it's in HIKCU.I went to the registery and can find nothing there.I also had 2other entries with little square boxes.what is this?I'm sure i have a virus from the way my comp.,is acting only when i go on line. i downloaded incontrol and got rid of the little square boxes entry.But because this one has no name it can't get rid of the one with no name,and i can't either

shelly
March 21, 2006 1:14 PM

I have 2 blanks in my start up item list. When I looked in my reg edit and followed the path, I discovered the blank to be located next to Netscape. The Data list is empty. Normally I would have just deleted this entry, but seeing as how my ISP is Netscape, I am somewhat hesitant. What is really puzzling is, I have used Netscape for over 4 years now, on the same computer, but the blank entries just recently appeared. They were never there before.

Other things seemed to happen at the same time and I can't seem to find out what's going on. For instance; my virus protection refuses to update. I have 2 separate programs Norton and AVG), both programs appear to be working fine. They scan the system, they download the updates, and they have detected and quarantined some pretty nasty villians. But something different is going on.

Although the updates seems to be successful, my monitor says they're not. It says they are still still out of date, even though though the update just completed. It's like something is blocking the library file for the programs. When I ran a symantec security scan, it says I don't have any antivirus software installed, yet the program is there and running.

What would cause my system to think there isn't any virus software installed, when there actually is. What would keep both of them from updating?

I have uninstalled and reinstalled both versions several times and nothing seems to be making a difference. I have had these programs on my system for over 3 years and they have always worked just fine. Why would they suddenly stop updating? Both version are the lastest versions available. Is there a virus that is capable of blocking your antivirus software?


One more thing, if you have a blank in your start up item list and the process name is;

system32.exe
pathex.exe

they are worms.

system32.exe is added by AGOBOT_KU and always has a blank entry

pathex.exe is added by MKMOOSE_A and is always a blank entry field

Thanks,
Shelly

Chad Bush
August 26, 2006 9:16 AM

I aslo have that problem except in the start up and command lines there is small boxes. the text is missing any answer to that, that would be awesome.

David G.
September 13, 2006 12:42 AM

I also had a blank entry,but I also have an entry that has the number 1 and location 1,do you know what this might be?

Ray
September 30, 2006 9:17 AM

Is this the same???
in my system configuration utility- startup ??? and command ??? HKCU\software\microsoft\windowsnt\currentversion\windows:load
in my startup ??? and command ??? HKCU\software\microsoft\windowsnt\currentversion\windows:run

Mustafa Sazak
February 11, 2007 9:15 AM

Hi. I have the same problem too. When i open regedit and follow the patch stated above, i see a blank entry and simply can't find out what does this work for.
but I am hesitated whetrher shut it down or not.
thanks

Neil
March 3, 2007 4:37 PM

I have a blank entry as well; however, the location is reads "SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" without "HKLM\" as the root and I have not found any blank entries in the registry.

Joe Wirkus
April 21, 2007 1:12 AM

I would like to say, you have made some of my worries go away! I was worried that I was having some serious problems. But after reading your easy to do solutions, I, and my pc are relieved!
I thank all who contribute to these pages.

Khim
July 7, 2007 1:09 PM

Mine reads "SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" without "HKLM\" also.....with no empty entry to be found in the registry

Kathy
July 7, 2007 5:25 PM

Thank you. I feel better just knowing it's gone, even it probably was nothing.

Pete
July 9, 2007 5:55 PM

Quote from Joe Wirkus: "Mine reads "SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" without "HKLM\" also.....with no empty entry to be found in the registry".
Same with me :( how do i fix this?

John
August 7, 2007 11:45 PM

Quote from Joe Wirkus: "Mine reads "SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" without "HKLM\" also.....with no empty entry to be found in the registry".

You should see the "Default" entry in that location and it will not have a value (says "value not set"). That is what is showing up as a blank (for some unknown reason).
Double click the "Default" entry and enter a 1 in the value and click ok, then highlight the "Default" entry and press the delete key. It will empty the key value like it should be and then it won't show up in the msconfig any more. Or at least it worked for me...good luck.

Steph
January 10, 2008 7:04 AM

I did everything stated below after finding 2 blank entries in my msconfig utility. Upon opening REGEDIT, I found a completely blank entry on top, followed by AIM6. I tried to delete the top one, but I get an "unable to delete" error message. I ran CCleaner's Registry Cleaner (mind you, I just ran the program last night before bed, this is first thin in the morning), it picked up and deleted ONE of the blank entries in MSCONFIG... now, the "blank" entry in REGEDIT is still there, and I'm not really sure why AIM is even there, I use that program frequently. Could you please help me?

Aaron R
March 10, 2008 4:20 AM

You should see the "Default" entry in that location and it will not have a value (says "value not set"). That is what is showing up as a blank (for some unknown reason).
QUOTE: "Double click the "Default" entry and enter a 1 in the value and click ok, then highlight the "Default" entry and press the delete key. It will empty the key value like it should be and then it won't show up in the msconfig any more. Or at least it worked for me...good luck."

I tried this; it only set it back to (value not set). I noticed this empty line before and figured it was a windows service of some sort. Just unchecked it in MSCONFIG and that should do it... going to reboot now. Good luck everyone

Bill
March 13, 2008 9:21 AM

I have had a similar (identical?) blank entry with "value not set", for several months. Thanks for your explanation. I unticked it today (13 Mar 2008) at startup in msconfig, and now Windows XP appears to have cleaned it up itself, as it no longer appears on msconfig! SIMPLE.

Kamran Khan
March 13, 2008 11:56 AM

Thanks alot john a rational tip.Your doctorine helped me.I had several blank entries in the startup of my registry some entries were in the HKLM\SOFTWARE\WOW6432NODE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENTVERSION\RUN.I followed Your procedure and I typed 1 in the default
reg_sz and then i deleted that value and it removed the ghost entries from the startup of my registry.I am using windows x64 operating system.Thanks Again!

DontHAckMe
April 23, 2008 11:48 PM

I had a blank entry in my msconfig too. Turned out to be my Logitech Wingman profiler. I had selected to not allow it to load during startup from the program options. But what this does is remove the command line from the registry. The entry is still there, bad coding I assume. I used SpyBot S&D to remove it.

Jeannie
April 29, 2008 11:09 AM

just get yourself a free copy of MSConfigCleanup

very tiny, very effective, has never screwed up for me.

James Piedimonte
July 13, 2008 4:37 AM

I need drivers to convert a A135 S2256 to Windows XP , the Notebook came with VISTA. My client and I agree it is terrible and want to convert it but the company will not release any drivers and they said that they are not available. I have someone who said he had them and asked me which ones I needed. So we are clear ALL OF THEM. I have three in the DEVICE MGR that say UNKNOWN and a MODEM and the VIDEO CONTROLLER. Any help Leo?

Geir
August 18, 2008 9:01 AM

Something weird is going with my PC
A program (Hard Disk Sentinel)scheduled to start during boot up is not listed within the MSCONFIG/STARTUP list.
Is this something I should worry about?

Mike Porritt
September 19, 2008 1:27 AM

I also had blank entries without the HKLM prefix
Ticking or unticking these did not remove them from MSCONFIG
I scanned the registry for valid entries of the same type and found them all registered under key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Shared Tools\MSConfig\startupreg\????????
Here you can tell what originally created the entries because the value of ??????? is really the name of the original application.
It seems that the de-install for some programs simply blanks the ITEM and COMMAND values and leaves the rest of the entry in the registry.
The difference between ticked and unticked entries (when viewed via MSCONFIG) is the value of HKEY for each entry.
Ticked entries have HKCU and unticked have HKLM.
Simply deleting the key below STARTUPREG in the registry path seems to clear up all traces of these dead entries.

steve c
October 2, 2008 6:43 PM

ok well i have spybot and when i unchecked it it came up as a aol aim6 file upon clicking info it said
database status: typically not required
value: aim6
filename: AOLLaunch.exe
Description: aol instant messenger- start it when you want to use it

Frank
November 13, 2008 6:30 AM

Noticed I had a blank startup entry as well. Checked regedit and noted it was due to (default).
"deleted" the item as was described in the first comment. The blank item dissappeared from the startup menue. Thanks Guys!

N Champaigne
December 22, 2008 5:29 PM

Although msconfig has the ghost entry, HKCLM ...RUN does not. So where is the invalid entry coming from? Also sluggishness at startup and shut-down prompted me to go looking for msconfig problems in the first place.

K. Dee
April 22, 2009 5:19 PM

Mine shows a program called GEST, but doesn't show anything else but GEST and there's no information what GEST is

sudhi
June 18, 2009 7:35 AM

My blank entry says it's in HIKCU.I went to the registery and can find nothing there.I also had 2other entries with little square boxes.what is this?I'm sure i have a virus from the way my comp.,is acting only when i go on line. i downloaded incontrol and got rid of the little square boxes entry.But because this one has no name it can't get rid of the one with no name,and i can't either

Frank B.
February 3, 2010 4:22 AM

I have the same thing but when I got to RUN, there was no blank entry found. I'll uncheck and see what happens. IE 8 has been hanging lately, and I'm also wondering if it's just time for my annual reboot. Nice snow day to do it!

HCWS66
May 26, 2010 1:30 PM

Now do you have any idea wheather it is safe to remove this entry if it is in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run, and listed as (Default) REG_SZ?
It is a Microsoft Windows entry and that always makes me nervous to delete these items.

Alan Reimer
June 29, 2010 3:37 PM

I followed your procedure to identify a blank entry in start-up. The only blank entry in Run in the Registry is 'Default' 'REG_SZ'. Still don't understand. What is this Default?

ProDigit
January 9, 2011 11:48 AM

good, but blank (unmarked) entries are not found,and can not be removed from there

ban
March 7, 2011 7:46 AM

I tried to delete as suggested, but received a message reading, "Unable to delete all specified values." Only the one offending file was highlighted for deleting - so it still appears.

Brendan
October 8, 2011 11:29 AM

I had the same experience as ban, "Unable to delete all specified values" my blank entry was also named Default.
However when I rerun msconfig the blank line has been removed, happy days.

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