So, I’m a gamer — it’s one of my primary hobbies outside of rock climbing and go-karting and fast car driving at the track.

I’m going to speak blasphemy here for a moment by telling you that until about 45 days ago, I was running on the same base install of my OS that I deployed when Windows 7 launched.  Yep, I’m an IT guy and I ran Windows 7 until 8 came out, did an in-place upgrade to 8, then did an in-place upgrade to 8.1, then did an in-place upgrade to 10.  I’m that guy.

In my defense, my computer worked fine throughout — a lot of people like to give Windows grief for its ability to fall apart after long periods of time, and most IT people (myself included) recommend doing a refresh of your OS every one to two years to make sure it’s in a good shape — but as I had not experienced any real issues, I kept chugging away on the same OS install.  At least, until the great alt-tabbing of 2017 began to occur.

It started small — once every few hours of playing a full-screen game, I would be randomly alt-tabbed out to the desktop and have to alt-tab back into the game I was playing. I did all of the requisite checking — made sure my anti-malware was up to date, ran through startup options, checked running processes, did a full scan, the whole 9.  Uncovered nothing.  Did an nVidia driver update, made sure my chipset drivers had been updated, ensured my motherboard drivers were current, did a quick BIOS update.  Glasswire showed no network traffic being sent during the incidents and a cursory review showed no unexpected network traffic to any unexpected hosts at any period of time.

Still occurred.  Went through scheduled tasks and cleaned out a lot of cruft that had migrated from previous versions of Windows as a few of the tasks seemed to coincide with the times that I was being alt-tabbed out of games and did uncover a Microsoft Office update telemetry scheduled task that caused a console window to appear for a second before disappearing (they’ve since updated and fixed that issue), which I thought was the culprit.

Alas, disabling it made no difference.  On the contrary, as the months passed, the frequency of this became higher and higher until about 45 days ago when it was happening within 5-7 minutes of running any full screen game or video application.  I ran Process Monitor to log every single system call being made to see what I could find and it never gave me any indication as to what was occurring.  I downloaded a couple of apps that purported to tell me what application was stealing focus when focus was lost and all they told me was that Explorer had stolen focus.  I saw no scheduled tasks executing that should be calling Explorer and couldn’t correlate the times to any actual event happening in Process Monitor.

I spent something like 2 months troubleshooting this — I’m a problem solver by nature and there’s nothing I like (and … dislike) more than a difficult and complicated problem to solve.  I noted some Scheduled Tasks that were only shown in ‘Running Tasks’ and referenced solely by GUID but that I couldn’t ever track down in the actual task scheduler.  I monitored reads/writes to the Task Scheduler library directories on the PC to see if a process was creating a scheduled task, executing it, and then deleting it — but found nothing.  Microsoft seemingly doesn’t make any kind of debug-level task scheduling software, so it was remarkably difficult to uncover what these tasks were doing, but I really thought they might be the culprit as the times/dates of their execution matched the times I was being kicked out of full-screen gaming.

Unfortunately, there’s really no happy ending to this story — I couldn’t uncover what in the world was causing this and ultimately ended up doing a full clean install of Windows 10 and rebuilding my desktop from scratch, which did resolve the issue.  To my surprise though, the GUID tasks existed in Task Scheduler on a completely clean Windows 10 install from known good install media — so I’m still somewhat curious what those tasks are and why they exist.  You probably have them as well, every Windows 10 PC I’ve looked at since has had them.  Just open up Task Scheduler, ensure you’ve enabled “All Tasks History”, and then wait a day or so and look at the last 24 hours of tasks.  I expect that you’ll see a lot of tasks that are either currently running or have completed with names like “{00cb6656-b9a9-4545-9fd0-dc538765be9e}”.  I have yet to find a way to uncover what these tasks are doing, as they only appear in the running tasks pane, don’t seem to correlate to any actual scheduled tasks, don’t send any network traffic that Glasswire could see, and don’t allow any kind of click-through from the Running Tasks interface to the task definition.

I figured that since I post all the time about problems I found a solution to, I’d make a post pointing out something I really never figured out.  Re-installing did fix my alt-tabbing issue, but now I’m deeply curious about these weird Scheduled Tasks.