How to find process that is stealing focus

By charnobyl ·
Hello Folks,

I have googled my problem and have found multiple threads from people having the same problem as I am. However, everyone keeps posting the same "solution", which is to use TweakUI and click "prevent applications from stealing focus". That doesn't fix the problem.

The problem is this ... some background process keeps stealing the focus from the active window, even when there is only 1 window open. The reason I suspect it is a background process that is doing this is that if there happens to be multiple windows open and the active window loses focus, none of the other windows taskbar button will flash letting me know it has stolen the focus.

Is there any way to find out which process is stealing the focus, either with a program or otherwise?

I have a WinXP machine w/ SP2.

Please let me know if you need any further information.


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All Answers

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'Process Explorer' will let you see what the cause is.

by OldER Mycroft In reply to How to find process that ...

Get it from the Microsoft site:

Think of it as Task Manager, but 1,000% better!

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That did it. Found the culprit!

by charnobyl In reply to 'Process Explorer' will l ...

Thx Mycroft. That was exactly what I was looking for. The culprit was a program called Retrospect.exe which is used by / with my external LaCie Terabyte HD. I had thought it may have been the problem, but this confirms it.

Now all I've got to figure out is whether or not the HD absolutely needs that file in order to be used (the HD has a 1-touch function that I think needs that file).

Thx as well to you Peco for your reply. I checked and it was already disabled.


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Regarding deleting/keeping the file . . .

by OldER Mycroft In reply to That did it. Found the c ...

Do you use WinPatrol?

If not - get it.

Choose the 2nd option for WinPatrol 2007 - the FREE one!

It's a far better solution instead of delving in and out of 'msconfig' whenever required.

It'll also run in the background and inform you of any changes that may not be aware of happening.

It'll let you see the startup files and you could access the startup for the LaCie driver file but set it to Manual as opposed to 'disabled':

That way your external drive will still have access to it when it needs it, but the rest of the time it will be transparent to your operating system, thereby NOT causing any hiccups.

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Never heard of it, but will give it a try

by charnobyl In reply to Regarding deleting/keepin ...

First time I've heard of that app. Thanks for the tip, I've d/l'ed & installed it and will see how it helps / works.

I appreciate the super quick repy that you and poco gave on my question. Rather impressive. :)

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by Nord_21 In reply to That did it. Found the c ...


this is about the only thread I could find after scouring the web looking for the answer to the same problem you had. I have downloaded the process explorer but am at a loss as to how you used that to find which process was stealing focus!

Basically, it's most noticable if I'm doing something that uses full screen (i.e. playing a game). The game will minimise but there are no other windows open and nothing to indicate which process has taken focus. This happens every ten minutes or so and is most infuriating!

I am running Vista SP2.

Thanks for your help!

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How did you manage it?

by isti82 In reply to That did it. Found the c ...


I would like to ask, that how did you find that process with process explorer?

I have a same problem, an application keeps stealing the focus. If it runs in 2 or more copies, it steals focus from the same applications, as well.

Thank you!

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Re: How to find process that is stealing focus

Switch off the pesky MDM process
On my laptop, a background process MDM.exe used to appear, which seemed to cause hundreds of page faults a second even when I was doing absolutely nothing. Since I use my machine a lot for compiling, I reckoned I could do without it.
I have listed (below) i hope is the answer to your question.

MDM is the Machine Debug Manager, and it is installed with Internet Explorer. Like me, you probably don't need it. Here is how to tun it off/disable it. Go to the Control Panels and click Internet Options. Click on the Advanced tab and check the box 'diable script debugging'. This should stop it appearing.

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Reponse To Answer

by Spuente59 In reply to Re: How to find process t ...

I did do this but it was disabled already, I downloaded process explorer and saw that a program pops up and then disapears too quickly for me to see what exactly it was., any other suggestions?

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Even Process Explorer gets no focus!

by stitlown In reply to How to find process that ...

I know this isn't an answer but "reply" was not working for me.

This thread is the closest to a problem I've had on my win7 x64 machine for months. Every Thursday - or the next time I start if not Thursday the machine will have regular spasms where everything looses focus for seconds then comes alive. The mouse is stopped. Task manager is halted even process explorer is halted. After the event task manager shows that some but not all cores have spiked to 100%. In the process explorer charts it sometimes could be visible and sometimes is not (just sat through one writing this watching PE and there was nothing when it came back - not CPU spike no IO spike, but TM did show the spike on 2 cores.

Obviously this is some scheduled task but ?????? Any suggestions how to trouble shoot. Thanks Lx

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