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Issue #841: September 3-9, 2023

Q: For my Internet travels I primarily use the Firefox or Brave browsers, occasionally Chrome, but I almost never open Edge. However, when I want to run a scan with CCleaner Free I get a “These programs need to be closed to be analyzed: Edge Chromium”. I’ll click on the offered “Close and Analyze” and then always get “The application is taking too long to close. Would you like to force it closed?”. I click on Yes and the scan runs normally from there.

 Recently my TotalAV started a browser cleanup scan but wouldn’t finish it until I had “…close the following web browser first: Microsoft Edge”. Since as usual it wasn’t open (as far as I could see) and TotalAV offered no forced closure option I started a CCleaner scan, got the Edge is opened notification as expected, used their force-it-closed option to close it, and then TotalAV was able to finish.

 Any ideas why I’m getting these “Edge browser is open” notifications when I haven’t opened it? Has my computer been hacked?

 Thank you for your columns, I enjoy and appreciate them.

 – Barry R.
Crestview, Florida

A: You seem like a very fastidious computer owner/user, Barry.  You’ve established some good habits with your computer, and you’re using some of the better free tools to maintain your PC.  And if you don’t mind my saying so, your taste in tech columnists is unquestionably superb.

As is typical with this sort of problem, there are so many variables in the equation that I can’t know for certain that any answer I might give you will be reliably guaranteed to be the solution.  So, I’ll do my best to provide some information, give you my best advice, and hope that it does some good for you, or other readers out there.

Once upon a time, intrinsic Windows functions were done by component software – parts of the operating system.  At some point, the geniuses at Microsoft realized that many of these tasks could be done by their flagship web browser, which at that time was Internet Explorer.  Functionality from the browser was rolled into several Windows functions, the most obvious of which was the file browser.  It may not be obvious, but this capability extends into any application that can load and save files, since the dialogs that perform these functions are really nothing more than file browsers linked to buttons that say “Save” and so forth.  When IE went away, it’s logical to assume that its functions were passed over to Edge.  So, any program that has recently loaded or saved a file and is still active probably has at least part of Edge in memory, which could certainly trigger the warning you’re getting.

Another thing that changed in Windows is the addition of Live Tiles to the Start menu.  These little guys were first introduced in Windows 8.  They do what their name implies, and display “Live” information, such as weather, calendar events, breaking news, e-mail notifications, and so forth.  How do they do it?  Why, they’re an extension of Edge, of course.  So, if you have any Live Tiles active, that too could trigger the warning.

Lastly, it’s important to know that just because you shut something off, or even if you haven’t run it at all, that doesn’t mean it’s not active.  Many programs, including Chromium-based browsers such as Edge, keep themselves active in the background so they can pop-up as quickly as possible for you.  You didn’t mention whether you looked in the Task Manager to see if it was active before launching one of your scan tools.  Try it – you might be surprised to find it lucking in the background.

Do I think your computer is hacked?  I do not – or if it is, it’s not from the symptoms you’ve described.  The scanning tools you’re using are simply not capable of scanning the files associated with Edge while it is using them, so it asks (rather politely, all things considered) whether it’s allowed to shut it down for you.  Feel free to give it permission, knowing that what you’re experiencing is simply Windows being Windows. 

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