everything you see on a computer screen, whether it’s a windows, mac, or linux device, is generated by system processes that control everything from your network connection to your user interface. Windows users may be familiar with some of these, including explorer.exe to display your desktop, but others will be less familiar.
System processes like dwm.exe are common and integral parts of the windows operating system. dwm.exe, in particular, helps to create a graphical user interface for windows, but can sometimes cause high cpu usage. If that’s the case, here’s what you’ll need to do to fix the problem.
what is dwm.exe?
The process dwm.exe (desktop window manager) is an important system process responsible for its graphical user interface. in particular, it helps render visual effects, such as transparent windows and taskbar thumbnails, that you’ll see when you’re using windows.
This is due to the approach that windows uses to create these types of effects. When you open new software, the user interface layout is recorded in windows memory, allowing the layout to be generated. windows then takes these window layouts and manipulates them to ensure its own visual effects are applied.
windows uses hardware acceleration to help make this a seamless experience for users, making use of your graphics hardware in the process, although you can use software rendering by default if your graphics card (or the integrated graphics chipset) is not capable of doing so.
what causes high cpu usage of dwm.exe & could it be malware?
windows will use the full power of your pc to create visual effects, whether you’re using the standard windows theme or applying new visual themes to your pc.
However, if the dwm.exe process uses a large amount of your cpu in windows task manager, that would indicate a problem with your hardware or system configuration.
Instead of relying on your graphics card to help create the visual effects, your cpu will be used to create them. If your pc is a bit older, this may have an impact on your system performance. higher cpu usage can mean higher temperatures and, as a result, a more unstable system.
While malware is not a typical cause of high cpu usage with the dwm.exe process, it cannot be ruled out. Some malware has been reported to try to replicate the dwm process and thus hide in plain sight.
Other causes of dwm.exe causing high cpu usage could be outdated drivers or missing windows system updates, as well as using internal graphics (instead of an external graphics card) to generate visual effects .
how to disable or kill the desktop window manager process (dwm.exe)
While previous versions of windows allowed you to disable the desktop window manager process (dwm.exe), this is no longer possible in windows 10.
The dwm process is now firmly integrated into the windows user experience, which means that the graphical user interface it uses depends on it to function. Although some of the visual effects you see can be turned off in windows settings, you cannot stop the dwm.exe process from running.
It is also not possible to remove it. The dwm.exe is an essential system process, so unless you want to break Windows 10 completely (and be forced to wipe and reset Windows as a result), you should leave it alone.
Possible fixes for dwm.exe high cpu usage
The desktop window manager process cannot be shut down or disabled, but there are some potential solutions you can try if you find that it is consuming your system resources, especially if your cpu usage is unusually high.
check for windows system updates
The first (and probably the most important) solution for windows users is to keep the system up to date. Microsoft releases bug fixes and system updates on a regular basis, which can help improve overall system stability, especially for newer hardware.
- You can check for updates in windows settings by right-clicking on the start menu and pressing the settings option. in the windows settings menu, press update & security > windows update > check for updates to check for and install any of the latest system updates for your pc.
- You can check if this is the case in the windows task manager. right click on the taskbar and click task manager to open this, then hit the performance tab in the task manager window.
- To do this, right click on the taskbar and select task manager, then find the running desktop window manager process, located under processes in the task manager window. press the open file location option to open the location of that running file in windows file explorer.
once updated, reboot your pc to see if the updates have any impact on the dwm.exe process.
check for graphics driver updates
If windows is up to date, your next step is to make sure your graphics drivers are up to date as well. You may need to check the manufacturer’s website for the latest driver versions, as drivers often make it to the windows update system much later.
for example, owners of nvidia cards should check the nvidia website for the latest updates, which are often released alongside major game or hardware releases. These also come with the latest bug fixes, which can help resolve unusual issues like high cpu usage.
verify your graphics card is in use
If you have installed a new graphics card and the drivers are up to date, you should also verify that the card is being used correctly.
If you connected the monitor cable to the motherboard and not to the graphics card by mistake, the graphics card will be ignored. this could cause windows to default to software acceleration for visual effects.
devices with more than one gpu (for example, computers with an integrated gpu on the motherboard and an external graphics card) will be displayed here, listed as gpu 0, gpu 1 , etc If the resource usage for the internal graphics chip is higher, this means your graphics card is not being used.
To help resolve this, check the connections between your monitor and your graphics card to ensure the correct device is being used.
scan windows for malware
If your system is up to date and working properly, then high cpu usage could indicate a malware infection.
Be sure to thoroughly scan Windows 10 for malware, including running a boot-level scan with Windows Security or another antivirus. If you are concerned that the dwm.exe process is not the official system process, you can double check in the windows task manager.
this will take you to the location of the desktop window manager process. if the file location is not the c:windowssystem32 folder, then the running process is not the official dwm.exe file.
If this is the case, run another malware scan and if nothing else works, you may need to consider resetting windows to factory settings to ensure you have fresh settings.
other important system processes in windows 10
The desktop window manager process (dwm.exe) is just one of many important system processes that you may not have heard of before. like svchost.exe and others, dwm.exe can sometimes be associated with spikes in cpu usage. but in many cases, this can be fixed by updating your pc and checking for malware.
While it is not possible to disable dwm.exe, you can disable some of the newer windows 10 visual effects in windows settings. this can help deal with cpu spikes if malware is not the cause. but you may need to look at alternatives, including upgrading your hardware, if your computer is having problems.