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Exploring Windows Mysteries: What is Svchost.exe?

written by: Ashwin Satyanarayana•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/8/2009

If you ever fired up your task manager, you'd have been stumped at what you find. Of all the things you will, a program named " svchost.exe" could have caught your attention but rarely would you know exactly what it does. What is svchost.exe? What does it do? How did it come about? Read on :

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    I’ll bet that you would look at your active applications and wonder what “svchost.exe" is and for now, it happens to be one of the most intriguing and mysterious applications running on your PC. As far as you are concerned, you didn’t fire this application up nor can you shut it down. So why is it there? What does it do?

    Microsoft says that the svchost.exe “is a generic host process name for services that run from dynamic-link libraries", whatever that means.

    Well, what this means is that it comes from something that Microsoft decided to do a while ago. It had decided to move all of its functionality of windows services into functional .dll files and not the virus prone, highly-corruptible .exe files. Converting services into .dll files also improves reusability from a programming point of view. However, these .dll files cannot be launched like you launch the other applications or view files the way you do on windows. These files have to be loaded by a special host/program executable, which is nothing your intriguing svchost.exe.

    If you open up your task manager, you will see that there might be more one instance of svchost.exe executables running. Why is that you might ask? Good question. You see if there was only executable program for all the services for windows and something were to happen to that program, all the services would be jeopardized. Hence, to be on a safe side, similar services (like all those relating to windows security and firewalls) can all be clustered together and then one svchost.exe executable would run for them. You can have more of these executables running for the other types of services.

    Although you really don’t have to clobber yourself to death over what services are running under which executable, you will only need to worry about this when your PC seems to saunter, amble or even look like it’s going to crash. That’s when you’d love to know which services (or svchost.exe file) can be disabled.

    The best way to do that is to fire up your task manager and click on the tab “show processes from users" or something related in other windows versions. You will see all the programs running on your computer which will include your instance of svchost.exe too. However, you’ll still not know which one is redundant. Using a software called Windows Process Explorer is a great way to find out more information about this on XP and Vista.

    Additionally, If you have Windows Vista, do this: After opening the task manager and finding the svchost.exe program on the list, right-click on it. Find the option that says “Go to Services" which will open the slew of services that are running under that svchost.exe file. They would all be “named" for you to comprehend.

    When you decide that a particular service set or if a service is not necessary, right click on the service name and select “disable".