Conhost.exe is a file that is found on computers running Windows 7 (or later) OS. It’s an essential file, and it usually works and serves its purpose without giving any trouble to the system user. Sometimes though, due to various reasons, it can start using up vast amounts of system resources and eventually making your system inoperable.
If you open up the task manager and look closely, you will find that your system might be running multiple instances of conhost. In most cases, it’s normal especially if your system has a dedicated graphics card and you are using a GPU intensive application.
Remember that if you try to close the instance forcibly, then it might cause data loss and even unwarranted system shutdown.
Unfortunately, because this system process is so common, virus and trojan creators develop their malicious applications with the same name and make it difficult for you as a user to accurately differentiate between the real and the malicious conhost instance.
What is conhost.exe?
Conhost or when technically speaking Console Window Host is a vital system file in Windows 7 and later released operating systems. It’s an essential file that allows modern applications to interact with the old-fashioned Command Prompt.
Two important benefits of Conhost.exe
- Since it sits between the command prompt and Windows, it means that you can enjoy using a prettier, more ‘windows styled’ version of the command prompt.
- It is more secure. It acts as a buffer from CSRSS, which still exists, and it means that the system should, in theory, be more stable.
Back in the days when Windows XP was the prominent OS, command prompt used to be managed by the process called CSRSS.exe (technically referred to as Client/Server Runtime Subsystem Service).
What is CSRSS?
It is a crucial subsystem process and shouldn’t be stopped at any cost or system running Windows XP will either shut down unexpectedly, or running applications will crash.
With Windows 7 (and later released versions), Microsoft improved the way that the system worked and changed from the system-wide CSRSS to a safer ‘wrapper’ called the Console Window Host.
Note: Microsoft has officially declared end-of-support for XP. It basically means that XP won’t be receiving (after 8th of April, 2014) any updates related to security patches or feature improvements. So if someone found a vulnerability in CSRSS and exploited it, then they could “theoretically” gain access to the whole system. Furthermore, if your computer has a virus or a malware and if somehow managed to corrupt Client/Server Runtime SubSystem then your order will suffer a frequent crash.
Why My Computer Has so Many conhost Processes?
You don’t have to worry as it is completely normal and is expected behavior in XP operating system.
You will see multiple instances of the conhost process in your task manager if you have any application or driver software installed on your computer that needs to access CMD in the background. Applications are xsplit, Nvidia control panel, AMD graphics panel and similar usually require multiple instances of CMD in the background to perform their tasks normally.
In general, each of those instances should consume very little in terms of CPU and memory usage. Typically, they will operate at 5MB for memory and most certainly no more than 10MB for console window host. When ideal, they will usually have 0% CPU usage unless they are using the command prompt to perform any of their tasks.
If you see Console Window Host using a lot of CPU, then you should try closing the other applications that you are running, one at a time, and waiting a few moments after each one to see if it was the culprit. If you cannot identify the culprit through that, then download an application called Process Explorer from the official Microsoft.com website, and run it.
Process Explorer will let you see which processes are connected to each other. Press Ctrl+F and then enter ‘conhost’ in the search box. Click on each result and delve through it. You will see the main window show you which service or app is linked to that particular version of the process. Close that program, and hopefully, the process will stop using so many resources.
Once you have identified the problem program, try restarting it to see if it causes problems again. If it does, try updating it to see if there is a patch that fixes the problem. Alternatively, try reinstalling it. If that doesn’t work, contact the developer to tell them that you’re having issues. They may have some useful suggestions for you.
Is conhost.exe a Virus
In most cases, the process is not a virus. However, it is possible that there is a malicious program trying to avoid detection by renaming itself the same as the legitimate Microsoft program.
To make sure that the file is legitimate, right-click on the process in Task Manager, and then click on ‘Open File Location.’
The legitimate version of Conhost.exe should be located in the System32 directory on your computer. Navigate to the following path: C:\Windows\System32 and then use the search to find conhost. You will notice that it’s relatively a small file (803KB) which handle lots of responsibilities.
If the file is large than 803KB or if it is located in a different directory like C:\Users\YouDon’tWannaSay\AppData\Roaming, or in Program Files or just any other directory, then it is likely to be either a trojan or a virus.
One another way to identify a corrupted or infected conhost.exe file is by looking at its CPU usage. If the task manager shows that CPU usage is beyond 50%, then your system is definitely infected with a Virus.
Many users have also reported that many so-called “free” applications install their cryptocurrency Miners that behaves as the legitimate Console Window Host but in reality, uses your system’s resources to mine cryptocurrency.
If you are worried that you have a virus, then you should download and install any trusted antivirus suite like Bitdefender, Norton, Kaspersky, Avast or Avira. You can also download and install Anti Malware application from Malwarebytes. But remember to install just one antivirus program. Installing multiple security applications will only make your computer’s condition worse as each of them will conflict with other and you will continuously face issues like high CPU usage, low memory, sluggish system performance.
Pick one, uninstall the others, and if you are not using Windows Defender as your virus scanner, disable the antivirus feature of it. Run the virus scanner and allow it to remove any issues that it finds. Reboot, and then rerun it.
Do Not Trust Third Party Warnings
Discard all warnings or pop-ups messages about viruses from the softwares that you don’t recognize or believe to have not installed yourself on your computer. These types of applications just trick you into installing malicious apps. Furthermore, they don’t do any good to you. They actually generate revenue by promoting malicious files and show you advertisements and popups all day long.
Remember to download softwares only from their official websites. You can also download softwares from trustworthy sites such as Microsoft, CNet, Softpedia, Filehippo. If you are planning to download antivirus software, then download it only from the official site and nowhere else. Do not click on links in emails, and be sure to check the address in the address bar of every website you visit before you enter your login details.
Conhost is used only on Windows 7, 8 and 10. If you are using an older version of Windows for any reason, then you should see only CSRSS and not Conhost, so any Console Windows Host appearances in Task Manager should be cause for concern.