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Windows XP/setup.exe in task manager


Something happens too often, my desktop pc (windows XP) will freeze. I go to windows task manager and under processes, I see that "setup.exe" is the problem, consuming huge amounts of memory (over 300,000k) and cpu usage is at 100%. I can always solve the problem by highlighting it and clicking 'end process.' Then the cpu usage drops way down and things are fine. Do you know what setup.exe is for and why it does this? I googled it and some say it's dangerous and others say it's ok. Even if it's ok, should it consume that much memory causing computer to freeze?  Thanks

Hi Lee,

The problem with SETUP.EXE as the file that is giving you problems is, that almost all programs that can be installed in your system uses that filename. Setup is a common name for a file that begins the installation process on almost all Windows applications (where you are installing a program and have to click NEXT > NEXT > YES and so on).

When a SETUP.EXE file is trying to run on it’s own, that could either be a very bad thing (a virus or similar), or something normal – perhaps it is a program that began an installation process and needed to reboot, and now it is trying to finish the installation steps.

One way to see if it is this, is to go through your Add/Remove Programs section of the Control Panel (START BUTTON  > CONTROL PANEL > ADD OR REMOVE PROGRAMS) and see if there are any programs which are missing, that is, programs which you perhaps wanted to install, but didn’t finish and/or forgot about, and they aren’t there. For example, let’s say you recently purchased Sony’s VEGAS MOVIE STUDIO and went to install it. It required a reboot and you had to leave for some reason. Coming back to the computer later, this SETUP program is running in the background and waiting for you do to something (perhaps install the SONY VEGAS CD/disc) to continue the installation and finish it. That is what I mean when I say perhaps it is a SETUP that is running and trying to finish installing something.

If there is nothing that you can remember doing/installing or there is nothing that this SETUP.EXE is associated with, it may indeed be something malicious. If you have an Anti-Virus program, I suggest to run that on your Entire System, just to be safe. A free one is AVG ( but you can also purchase one from an office supply store such as Staples or Office Depot, or even Wal-Mart. These will usually pre-scan your computer prior to installation, just to make sure it is being installed on a clean system, or at least they will ask to Scan your Entire System right away. Hopefully it is nothing serious.

If you absolutely cannot find out what it is, or want to just recover you system to a time it was working earlier, you can use XP’s built-in System Restore (Microsoft’s official steps, with pictures can be found here: or you can even ‘reinstall Windows’, formatting the drive and starting over fresh and clean. This is of course a Last Resort, but I mention it because I want you to feel that you are definitely not stuck with this problem the way it is forever. Hopefully you can find out what it is trying to do, clean it out if it is a virus, or restore your system to an earlier state without this ‘rogue’ program running in the background. You can do it, stay positive!

Good luck with it and I hope everything works out ok, Lee!

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Troy M. MCSE, CNA, MCP, CST, IC3, Aplus


Hi there! Even though I am relatively new around here, I have been having great fun with PCs for over two decades now, becoming familiar with Windows through versions 3.x/9x/Me/2000/XP/2003/7/8/10. I enjoy helping others with what I feel is an exciting industry - computers are always changing, improving and offering new opportunities for learning. I look forward to assisting you with questions concerning Windows, how it interacts with your PC Hardware, configuration/settings or just general tips and ideas. Besides troubleshooting questions, feel free to ask the basics, as well. I will always start there, and I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a dumb question - we are all ‘Beginners’ at one time or another!


I am an A+ Certified, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with Computer Service Technician and LAN Administration diplomas and over 15 years direct experience with PCs including assembly, troubleshooting/support and upgrading. I have worked for retail outlets, schools and businesses, and have been an Instructor in the past as well – helping others, just like you, understand and enjoy computers!

MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), CNA (Certified Novell Administrator), MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), CST (Computer Service Technician (Formerly Computer Engineering Technician)(Hardware/OS servicing Diploma), IC3 (Internet and Core Computing Certification)(Hardware/OperatingSystem/Internet Fundamentals Certification), A+ (Computing Technology Industry Association Hardware/Operating System Certification)

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