Why Is My PC Always Trying to Open a File When It Boots?

Why Is My PC Always Trying to Open a File When It Boots?
Screenshot: Abidemi Felix
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There are times when your Windows PC seems to have a mind of its own — launching programs, windows, browser tabs, or whatever else without your direct input. There’s always a reason for this activity. Your system hasn’t become sentient. However, tracking down what’s causing this chaos is always a fun exercise. And that’s exactly what we’ll be dealing with in this week’s tech Q&A.

Referring to the above image, Lifehacker reader Abidemi writes:

My 911 has been showing this error when I tried to log it into my new PC. I am confused.

What the heck is “3.26.zip,” and why is your PC trying to open it?

I’m going to walk you through a few potential options that might be causing this issue you’re experiencing. First, and most importantly, there could be some kind of malware on your system that’s trying to perform actions behind your back. That “3.26.zip” file that your system keeps trying to open feels awfully suspicious, which makes me think this could be the source of the problem you’re facing.

You should grab a useful anti-malware tool (like Malwarebytes’ free utility), scan your system, and enjoy some relief once it clears up any problems on your PC. While you’re at it, run a full Windows Defender scan, too.

It’s a little odd that this mystery file on your desktop that your system is trying to open clearly has something to do with the 911.re proxy service, which is a tool one generally uses to conceal one’s IP address on the web. If you don’t know what any of that means, and you haven’t signed up for, nor tried to install, any kind of proxy service on your system, then I’d start to get nervous.

It might be time to back up your data and reinstall Windows 10 from scratch, just to make sure there isn’t anything lurking on your PC that an anti-malware or virus-scanning program can’t catch. Run those first, however. And if you’re not satisfied with the results, a fresh drive format and install will give you the best chance of getting rid of anything that might be ailing you.

If I’m wrong, and you know fully well what “3.26.zip” is, and you’re only wondering why WinRAR keeps launching when you boot your system, my guess is that there is a quirky thing happening within Windows 10’s Startup sequence that’s causing this. And you should be able to check that by visiting one of two places: Startup Apps (by typing in “startup” after clicking on the Start button and selecting that result) or the Windows 10 Task Manager > Startup.

Screenshot: David Murphy Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy Screenshot: David Murphy

And, of course, there’s always the good ol’ startup folder: C:Users[your user name]AppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartup

Screenshot: David Murphy Screenshot: David Murphy

In this case, I suspect that you probably have something in one of these locations that’s triggering WinRAR to launch — possibly the result of an installation gone weird, or any other brief bit of digital chaos that’s popping up the helpful utility whenever you start your system.

If you can’t find anything, you can always try uninstalling WinRAR, deleting that .ZIP file on your desktop, and seeing if anything else quirky happens when you start up your PC. If not, great! Consider switching to another extraction tool like 7zip going forward.

And if there any other apps you don’t recognise that are starting with your PC, give them a quick web search to help you figure out if you should disable them. If any of them come up as obvious malware, well, there’s your answer.

But the more I think about it, the more it feels to me like your system is infected based on the behaviour that’s going on and the name/contents of that .ZIP file on your desktop. In addition to Malwarebytes’ utility and Windows Defender, you might want to also consider using a tool like Avast’s antivirus to run a boot-time scan of your system — a feature Malwarebytes doesn’t do, if I’m correct. You can also try enabling Malwarebytes’ rootkit scanner within its settings. This should be all the firepower you need to deal with any malware you’re experiencing, but like I said, there’s always the “nuke and reinstall” approach.

Do you have a tech question keeping you up at night? Tired of troubleshooting your Windows or Mac? Looking for advice on apps, browser extensions, or utilities to accomplish a particular task? Let us know! Tell us in the comments below or email [email protected].

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