Everything you need to know about COM Surrogate (dllhost.exe).

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If you are curious enough to start looking at the name of the processes in your Task Manager, you will find the dllhost.exe/COM surrogate, a process that at first sight might seems suspicious, but it isn’t. This process can be found in Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 and older versions, and it’s an important part of the operative system. Don’t worry, keep reading to know why this process is running on your pc.

What is COM Surrogate/dllhost.exe?COM surroagate

First of all, COM Surrogate or dllhost.exe is the application that Microsoft uses to extend other applications or processes through the creation of COM objects. COM (acronym of Component Object Model) objects run in the background with the name of dllhost.exe. The Windows’ File Explorer or its previously name, Windows Explorer, uses the COM objects to create the thumbnails and preview images for all your files, images and videos, when you search through your folders.

This application was first introduced in Windows 95 (and now is part of Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10) as a way to allow its developers to create COM objects, process that runs separated from the host, increasing the stability of the main processes. If there is something wrong in the creation of the thumbnails of your files, the process that will crash is the dllhost.exe instead of the main one or the host process, explorer.exe. If the COM object were not running outside the host process, explorer.exe would have crashed instead.

Why is dllhost.exe running in my pc?

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Every time that you open a folder in your system, a dllhost.exe is initiated by the Windows Explorer or File explorer, so it’s very common to find the COM surrogate process running in the background. Also, other programs use the dllhost.exe for their own purposes. Don’t worry if you find this process running, it is a part of Windows and it’s totally safe. You can find it is you look in your system32 folder located in your local disk.

I want to know the COM objects a COM Surrogate is hosting. How can I do that?

Your Windows’ default Task Manager is incapable of showing you the different COM objects a COM surrogate is hosting, so you will need to download another tool. Microsoft has the Process Explorer, the perfect tool for the job without recurring to third party options. Search for Microsoft’s Process Explorer, download it and you can see every process actually running and an extended information about each one. Just click on the dllhost.exe and you will see which COM Object or DLL file its hosting.

Can I disable dllhots.exe?

No, you can’t disable it. COM surrogate is integrated to Windows since the 95 edition and it’s necessary to maintain the stability and a good window’s functioning. Some programs create dllhost.exe processes to do things that they want without the risk of crashing the host process. Every time that you open a folder in your system, the Windows Explorer creates a dllhost.exe to handle all the thumbnails for your files. Anyway, there is no reason for you to disable it, because it always runs in the background and its memory usage is very low, depending on the amount of thumbnails it has to create.

Can this process be a virus?

No, COM surrogate is a parts of windows, created by Microsoft, so isn’t a virus. You can find the dllhost.exe if you look in your C:\Windows\system32 folder. This executable is not a virus but a safe Windows system process, but if you are getting troubles with it, there are 2 possible options:

  • A virus or malware is using the exe: some virus can create COM objects to give you trouble with your system. If you notice that your system is slower than normal and you find a lot of dllhost.exe process in your Task Bar, or a window’s error message saying “COM Surrogate has stopped working”, it may be a virus using the process. You will need to scan your system with your preferred antivirus program (set the scan to Deep Scan for better results) and it will erase the virus from your system.
  • A corrupted file or thumbnail: if you notice that every time that you open a certain folder or navigate through certain parts of your system, it starts slowing down, maybe you have a corrupted file. If a file is corrupted and your system doesn’t recognize it, the explorer.exe will create the COM object to generate the thumbnail anyway. In this process, the COM object will start using more and more CPU and memory, and finally crashing when your hardware limit is reached, launching the “COM Surrogate has stopped working” error message. This can be fixed by identifying the corrupted file and erase it.

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