Fix: Program exe file stays open in Task Manager after being closed

Have you ever noticed when you close an application, it’s still running in Task Manager? While on most occasions, the .exe file will terminate in a few moments, there may be times, when the executable continues to run. I came across this situation a couple of times. Most of time I was able to resolve the problem with the help of the Task Manager, but if you are unable to kill the .exe file, you can use a tool called Process Explorer by Mark Russinovich. The reason why we are using Process Explorer is because it will allow us to look into the files, dll, exe a program called during it’s operation. So this way, we maybe able to find out our culprit.   

Step 1:

So first we need to download Process Explorer and run the application as administrator.


Step 2:

Now we need to enable the lower panel. To do so, click on the View Menu and click on “Show Lower Pane”  or just press Ctrl + L.


Step 3:

The next part is a little tricky. Select the program that has problems closing. Now look through the Lower Panel.  There, you may find a couple of handles belonging to program. There will be a lot of other handles as well. For those who are not familiar with the term handle, Handles are open file references of a particular program.


Now what we have to do is ignore all the Microsoft related handles like Frameworks, Session Managers etc. because on normal conditions Microsoft related handles won’t cause the EXE to stay open in Task Manager, it’s mostly the third-party applications. Also ignore the application references itself, e.g. Outlook being stuck in the Task Manager after it’s closed. In such cases, you can ignore Outlook entries.

You have to look for other third-party application references. The most common ones I have come across are TeamViewer handles preventing the application from closing, Multi Monitor utilities etc.  If it’s Team Viewer handle, you can see the location where Team Viewer is installed and a dll referring to Team Viewer. If you are not sure,  you can just right-click on the reference and close the handle and see if the .exe disappears from the list.  If it does, then you have found the culprit. If not then keep looking because in some cases there will be a lot of references.

I know it’s a little hard to track it down. But the geeks out know it’s really fun to troubleshoot – just as Sherlock Holmes loved solving a case.

I hope you find this article helpful. If you face any difficulties, please post it in our forums we’ll be happy to help you.

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Shyam aka “Captain Jack” is a Microsoft MVP alumnus and a Windows Enthusiast with an interest in Advanced Windows troubleshooting. Suggestions made and opinions expressed by him here are his personal one's and not of his current employers. He blogs at