Time to learn: What is the Desktop Window Manager (dwm.exe) process?

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If you start looking in the processes tab of the Task Manager in windows, eventually, you will come across the dwm.exe process. Every PC with a Windows operative system has this process, and Windows 7 was the first to make it more important to the core system. Basically, the Desktop Window Manager is the one in charge of all the window effects in your PC, like transparency or the 3d flip effect.

What is the dwm.exe?windows desktop manager

It’s a compositing windows manager, this means that is the process in charge of rendering all the good-looking effects in Windows, like window transparency, the 3d flip that you can see if you press Alt-Tab, the thumbnails that appears if you pass the mouse over your taskbar, and many others. It also manages all the aero effects in windows 7.

Every program that you use generates a display window and each window is write in a specific place in your pc memory. The dwm.exe then creates one composite image of all the windows and add the configured effects to all of them.

Can the dwm.exe be turned off?

No, it can’t be turned off. The Desktop Window Manager is a vital part of the entire Windows 7, creating the graphical user interface. In the newer versions of Windows, 8 and 10, the manager is even more integrated to the core system.

If you want to turn it off because its memory usage, you should know that in a normal day, the dwm.exe in windows 7 barely uses 50-70MB of RAM and less than 1% of your CPU.

My dwm.exe windows 7 process is using a lot of RAM and CPU. What should I do?

The Desktop Window Manager should be in the 30-80 MB range of RAM usage, so if it’s using more than this maybe you have another problem that it’s affecting this process:

  • Video driver incompatibility: update or reinstall your drivers. Check if there is a drive incompatibility or an outdated one. This can be your problem with the dmw.exe, because this process uses your GPU to reduce its CPU usage.
  • Malware/virus: if you see your dmw.exe crashing, using a lot of RAM and CPU or just acting up, you should check your pc for malware and viruses, because there are known issues related to the Desktop Window Manager and malware or viruses.

Can the dwm.exe be a virus?

No, it can’t. This process is created by Microsoft and it’s an essential part of Windows. It’s possible for a virus to take the place of the dwm.exe, but it’s something that rarely happens. If you want to be sure, you can scan your computer with your antivirus or locate yourself the dwm.exe. Open your Task Manager and go to the Processes tab, then right-click the dwm.exe and click in “Open File Location”. Your file should be in the Windows/System32 folder and this means that it is the original one. If it isn’t in System 32, scan your pc again and make sure the virus is eliminated.

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