SETHC.exe Missing, Exploit, and Virus [A Comprehensive Analysis]

Have you heard of this executable process being linked to hacks, login exploits, or other security concerns? The sethc.exe process is a part of most Microsoft Windows operating systems and typically used for a specific purpose, but some users have discovered certain exploits in this executable process that deviate from its legitimate purpose.

These exploits can be handy in the right hands, but unfortunately many hackers and virus coders have used this exploit to cause harm. This article will detail what the sethc.exe process does on your computer, what it can be exploited to do, and how to detect and prevent hackers and virus coders from infiltrating your computer with malware.

What is SETHC.exe?

The sethc.exe process is associated with Windows NT High Contrast Invocation and is part of your Microsoft Windows operating system if you are a Windows 7, 8, or 10 user. With your computer’s default Windows settings, this process is run when the shift is pressed five times in succession, which prompts the StickyKeys configuration window to appear on your screen.

Ultimately, this is the only intended purpose for the sethc.exe process. The sethc.exe process is not built into your computer’s system which means that it originates from software that you installed onto your system. 

SETHC.exe Exploit (Windows 7 and 10)

Although the sethc.exe process is solely meant to invoke the StickyKeys configuration window, some Windows 7 and 10 users found a way to hack into a computer’s administrative access using the sethc.exe process.

This is achieved by replacing the sethc.exe process with cmd.exe, the default command-line interpreter for Windows computers which is capable of granting administrative access. There are several, far more in-depth, tutorials detailing the necessary steps in order to achieve this, but here are the basic steps.

  1. Hit the Shift button more than 5 times successively, which should prompt the StickyKeys configuration window to appear.
  2. Navigate to C:\Windows\System32.
  3. Replace sethc.exe with cmd.exe by copying cmd.exe and renaming it as sethc.exe.
  4. Repeat step one on the login screen, you should be granted access to the cmd.exe command prompt instead of the StickyKeys configuration window.

This exploit was very useful for more technologically inclined Windows users who were looking shortcuts or solutions to a forgotten administrator password or login details. However, this exploit also created massive security concerns when hackers and virus coders were able to use it to gain administrative access to any computer using Windows 7 or Windows 10 that they wished to impose malware upon.

Fortunately, this exploit has been patched out of more recent versions of Windows. If you are still unsure about the sethc.exe file on your computer, the next section will detail the steps necessary to determine whether or not the executable file on your computer is a virus or the legitimate file. 

SETHC.exe Virus

Although the version of this executable process is likely safe due to the patches made on more recent versions of Windows operating software, it is better to be safe than sorry with viruses or malware on your computer.

To determine whether or not the sethc.exe file on your computer is malware or not, you should start by checking the spelling of the file to make sure it is spelt correctly. Many viruses feature slight misspellings of the legitimate file name, so it is imperative that you check the spelling before moving on with the investigative process.

Next, determine the location of the file. The sethc.exe process should run from either C:\Windows\System32 or C:\Windows\ServicePackFiles\i386 so if it is running from any other location then it is likely a virus. If you are still unsure whether or not the file is a virus, there are two tools you can access on most Windows operating systems: Task Manager and Process Explorer.

To use Windows Task Manager, go to View, Select Columns, and then select Image Path Name. To use Microsoft Process Explorer, start the program (it does not require installation) and activate Check Legends under Options. Then, navigate to View, Select Columns, and then add “Verified Signer” as one of the columns.

If the “Verified Signer” status of the process is listed as “Unable to Verify” you should check the information of this file. If the publisher listed for sethc.exe is not Microsoft Corporation or if the file size is not roughly 776192 bytes, then it is likely a virus. Once you have identified the file to be a virus, the next step should be downloading an anti-virus tool like Malwarebytes onto your computer to detect and remove the virus.

Sethc.exe Missing (Windows 7 or 10)

Some Windows users have reported that they experience error messages related to sethc.exe such as, “sethc.exe could not be found” or “the file sethc.exe is missing or corrupt”. The cause of these errors is likely related to a problem with your system. Therefore, to resolve this issue you may have to download and replace your sethc.exe file. To download and replace your sethc.exe file, follow these four steps.

  1. Locate your Windows operating system version in the list below “Download sethc.exe Files”.
  2. Click the appropriate “Download Now” button and download you’re the file that corresponds to your version of Windows.
  3. Copy the file into the appropriate directory for your Windows version.

For Windows 10 and 7 users: C:\Windows\System32\

  1. Restart your computer.

This should resolve any issues with sethc.exe being missing or obstructed. If this does not resolve your issue, you may have to either perform a Windows update, if you have not updated to the latest version, or perform a clean installation of your version of Windows. To run a Windows Update, follow these five steps.

  1. Hit the Windows Start button.
  2. In the search box, type “Update” and press Enter.
  3. Click Check for Updates in the Windows Update dialog box.
  4. If updates are available, click Install Updates.
  5. Restart your PC.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, if you are running the latest version of your Windows operating system, these issues will likely not apply to you. Whether or not you have experienced these specific issues with the sethc.exe process, this information can be important to know for all computer users as many executables can be similarly used for malicious and unintended purposes.