Steal This Focus
January 3, 2012 5:52 AM   Subscribe

Something is stealing focus on my Windows 7 HTPC. How do I figure out what application it is so that I can get rid of it?

I have an HTPC running Windows 7 that is having a very aggravating problem. Whenever I am running a fullscreen application, whether it is playing a game, watching fullscreen video, or running Windows Media Center, it will suddenly minimize to the taskbar. It seems as if some application is popping up and stealing focus, but there no obvious application open. It just minimizes to whatever other windows were open on the desktop before I started doing my fullscreen thing.

I have tried tracking what time this happens, but it seems random.

How do I figure out which program is causing the problem?
posted by soy_renfield to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could try looking at your Event Log whenever this happens. Click Start, then Control Panel, then Administrative Tools, then Event Viewer.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:57 AM on January 3, 2012

SuperSquirrel - Can you give me any more insight into what I'm looking for in Event Viewer that would clue me in to what is going on? I see lots of different categories of events.
posted by soy_renfield at 6:05 AM on January 3, 2012

If it is a resident program:

- Start/Run msconfig.
- Click on the services tab, check to hide microsoft services. Uncheck everything else.
- Uncheck everything under the startup tab.
- Reboot and see if the problem continues. If it does not, open msconfig and gradually recheck everything disabled until the culprit is found. (start with the most suspected first, etc)

If it is something else:

- Try removing your keyboard/mouse or cover up/disable your IR sensor to see if the problem is caused by hardware.
- In the Event Viewer, be especially on the lookout for red or yellow "blips" in the system or application logs.
- On your keyboard in particular, try tapping down CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+WINDOWS on both sides a few times. These can occasionally get stuck in an activated mode (especially if you use remote control software on the HTPC)

Other questions:

- Are you using any extra codec packs on this PC?
- Is there anything your currently suspect, but need help troubleshooting?
posted by samsara at 6:49 AM on January 3, 2012

An always on top system monitor app might help.

I use Moo0 System monitor on my windows pc and it has an option to show the current dominant CPU using program so you might be able to catch it before it dissapears.

If you can't find it that way try narrowing down the problem program or service by disabling half the services/startup apps and seeing if the problem still exists. If it does divide the remaining apps in half again. Repeat until you have narrowed it down to the problem. This assumes it isn't something deliberately hiding.

Also check if you have automatic system or app updates happening - they can be annoying focus thieves. Chat programs with notifications can also cause this as people pop on and offline. Ditto for mail notifications.
posted by srboisvert at 8:01 AM on January 3, 2012

Thanks for the help. Running Event Viewer, I can see that MS Installer is trying to install Akamai Netsession Interface and failing. I also see numerous issues with Windows update throwing errors due to bad certificates. I have uninstalled Akamai, knowing that it may mess with my streaming. Any idea what to do about the Windows update errors?
posted by soy_renfield at 8:40 AM on January 3, 2012

Bad Certificates: start by checking that your computer's clock/calendar is set correctly. Certs are dated, and if your PC thinks it's 2007, it won't recognize any modern certs.

Focus-theft: if you're running synergy2, to share the keyboard/mouse with another PC, it has a default behavior of stealing focus when the mouse leaves the screen. It can be turned off in the host's settings with an easy checkbox.

That is all I know.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:18 AM on January 3, 2012

As Sunburnt suggests, fixing your date/time clock (if it is off) could go a long way in fixing both the certificate errors and windows update. If the clock is correct, then it is possible something else is amiss. You might want to try the FixIt suggestion in this KB Article to see if it helps.
posted by samsara at 12:29 PM on January 3, 2012

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