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Most computer users only interact with a fraction of the files on their PC. In addition to your personal data, you’ll find thousands of operating system files that Windows uses. Unless you’re trying to fix a specific problem, you’ll probably never bother with them.
But just like when you scratch your head at weird file types, you might come across some entries in Windows that make no sense or even sound harmful. Let’s find some of the silliest file names in Windows and figure out what they actually mean.
1. Vulkan Run Time Libraries
Found in: The Apps & Features Settings panel of Windows 10 or Programs & Features in earlier versions.
Fighting diligently against malware means keeping an eye out for strange files on your computer, and Vulkan Run Time Libraries certainly sounds like it doesn’t belong.
But this one isn’t a Star Trek-themed virus. It’s actually a graphics API, much like DirectX. It improves 3D gaming performance and has recently popped up on many systems since NVIDIA and AMD bundle the libraries with their graphics cards. Thus, you’ll find it already installed on a new system with a dedicated graphics card. Alternatively, it could arrive when you update your graphics card driver.
Not every game requires the Vulkan Run Time Libraries. But if you’ve built a PC with a dedicated graphics card, chances are that you play some video games on it. So you shouldn’t uninstall this, as the runtime likely powers a game on your machine.
2. Microsoft Passport
Found in: The Services panel and Task Manager.
A Microsoft passport? Is your computer about to take you out of the country? Unfortunately, we aren’t taking a trip with this service.
Microsoft Passport is the service that powers signing into various Microsoft services across your computer. As you likely know, you’re required to use a Microsoft account to access some of what Windows 10 has to offer, such as OneDrive and parental controls. It acts as a single-sign-on system where you only have to log in one time to gain access to everything with your Microsoft account.
For instance, if you use a Microsoft account to sign in to your PC, you don’t have to sign in again when you want to buy an app from the Store or work in OneDrive. Passport also powers Windows Hello, the new system for logging into your PC.
Instead of a username and password, Windows Hello (on supported devices) lets you log in with your face, fingerprint, or a PIN. We’ve already discussed the benefits of using a PIN to log into Windows, as it’s easy to remember and keeps your Microsoft account password protected. Windows Hello doesn’t sync across computers, so any login methods you set up stay local to that device.
Many details occur behind the scenes with Windows Passport to make it secure, which is beyond the scope of this article. In the end, it makes using Windows more convenient and provides more security options for the user.
3. System Interrupts
Found in: Task Manager.
Having System Interrupts on your computer gives the impression that your PC needs to learn some manners. If you turn this service off, will Windows stop interrupting what you’re doing to install updates and the like?
Nope. This entry in the Task Manager is actually vitally important to keep your computer running properly. It’s not actually a true process. System Interrupts is a placeholder entry that shows you how much of the CPU is occupied by interrupts.
A hardware interrupt occurs when some piece of hardware needs to grab the CPU’s attention. If a program is busy running a calculation and then it runs into an error, your system will send an interrupt letting the CPU know that it should stop due to the error.
Most of the time, interrupt requests are more important than whatever the CPU is working on at the time so it responds to them immediately. This is especially true for user input: when you start typing on the keyboard, the CPU usage for System Interrupts rises because the CPU is dealing with you typing. Once the interrupt is all clear, the CPU resumes its prior task.
Seeing some CPU usage by System Interrupts is normal. But if it’s regularly consuming more than a few percentage points of the CPU, you might have a hardware issue and should diagnose the problem.
4. Network Connection Broker
Found in: Services panel.
The word “broker” calls to mind an image of someone buying and selling on behalf of another person, or bringing buyers and sellers together. So it sounds like this service works to bring the right internet connection to your PC or handles connection changes.
That assumption is partly accurate, but this service’s function isn’t as widespread. In this case, its purpose is as simple as the definition that Windows provides:
“Brokers connections that allow Windows Store Apps to receive notifications from the internet.”
Essentially, this service makes sure that Modern apps can grab notifications when needed. Without it, you wouldn’t receive a ping for new email in the Mail app or see Twitter notifications for new mentions. Since some Store apps are actually worth using, there’s no reason to disable this.
Found in: C:\Windows\System32 and Task Manager.
Take a trip through the System32 folder in Windows (being careful while you’re there) and you might stumble across a file called spaceman.exe. This bizarre file name sounds like it could be part of a sci-fi game or perhaps an astronomy software, but as we’ve seen above, names are often deceiving.
Spaceman.exe is associated with disk partitioning tools. If you’ve installed EaseUS Partition Master or a similar utility, you’ll likely see this process floating around. Windows describes the process as “storage spaces manager,” which clicks with the disk management tools.
Spaceman.exe has stopped working pic.twitter.com/81bNsuRYWQ
— Gerard Way Fans (@GWayWayliens) February 6, 2016
Found in: C:\Windows\System32.
System32 is home to a lot of scary-sounding files. But “bubbles” seems cheery and thus out of place. What in the world is this?
As it turns out, this file holds the classic Windows screensaver we all know and love. Though screensavers are disabled by default in Windows 10, you can still turn this back on to play a nice animation when you’re away.
Screensavers aren’t necessary with modern display technology, but this is still a fun relic of bygone days.
7. Retail Demo Service
Found in: Services panel.
You can probably guess what this file is by its name, but the fact that it’s hanging around in Windows is the interesting part. Windows 10 holds a hidden “Retail Demo” mode intended for stores to use so people can check out computers without poking into administrative functions.
In fact, it’s possible to enable it on any Windows 10 computer. But you should avoid doing this because it will erase all the data on your computer and perform a factory reset when entering demo mode. Open Settings, visit the Update & security panel, then select the Activation tab on the right. Near the top, click the word Windows five times and you’ll see a pop-up asking if you want to enable demo mode.
The resulting mode is exactly what you’d see on a computer in a store running Windows 10. Edge’s homepage is set to the Microsoft Store, you can’t access the Control Panel, and there’s a dedicated app for learning about the new features of Windows 10.
It also runs a screensaver while not in use that shows off the operating system.
There’s no use in activating this for home users, but it’s neat that the service exists and you can find it on your own PC.
Digging Up the Strangest Bits of Windows
These seven elements of Windows sound funny, weird, or out of place at first. But once you examine what they’re for, everything clicks. You’d be forgiven for assuming that some of these were malicious, and it’s always smart to keep an eye out for potential infections on your PC. By checking these out, we’ve had a laugh and learned a bit more about Windows. That’s a win-win for sure!
Looking for more like this? Enjoy the most ridiculous Windows errors of all time.
What elements in Windows have left you scratching your head? Share the funniest and weirdest entries you’ve found below in the comments!