Desktop Window Manager (DWM.exe) – What Is It and Why Do I Need It?

You might be wondering what that Desktop Window Manager process is all about when you open up your Task Manager. It’s quite simple, really. Here are some inquiries you might have had about it and their answers.

What is DWM (Desktop Window Manager)?

Desktop Window Manager (or dwm.exe for older versions) is exactly as its name says – a window manager. It makes operating with multiple windows as smooth and effortless as can be. Also, DWM is in charge of those neat transparent window effects and thumbnails you come across all the time on your screen.

Without DWM, all the applications would be on your screen all the time. This way, you have a clear, more organised view of all your running applications, and you can choose which one you want to work with. What your computer does is create a downsized picture of the application screen and its components in a particular place in the memory. The visual effects are then added and you wind up with that display we all came to know.

Can I switch Desktop Window Manager off?

The answer is no. A dozen years ago, before Windows 7, you could. It was possible to turn off all the effects provided by Desktop Window Manager. However, nowadays it is a crucial component to a well-known Windows appearance.

With Windows 8 and 10 being typically used, it has definitely become inevitable.
With every update, creators are working on improving it and reducing its resource usage, so there really is no need to switch it off, anyway.

Help! My Desktop Window Manager is draining RAM and CPU.

Typical Desktop Window Manager resource usage is rather small – it can go up to 60 MB RAM and 1% CPU. And that is if you have quite a few applications running, including a few tabs in Google Chrome. You are unlikely to see it climb above that. Even if the usage does go above, it will probably go back down promptly.

If you feel like it’s still using too many resources, you can try changing the display theme to a simpler one. More importantly, you should update your hardware drivers if you can, particularly your video card or graphic adapter. This could help reduce the usage.
One more thing that you can do is scan your computer for malicious software, since it could be affecting your Desktop Window Manager, too.

What If It’s a Virus?

Although it’s not very likely, the reason behind your Desktop Window Manager high resource usage could be a virus. But, if you want to confirm a virus did not interfere with your Desktop Window Manager, you can do so by opening the Task Manager. Since DWM is an authentic part of Windows, its location should be clear. Having said that, after you have opened the Task Manager, right-click on the Desktop Window Manager and select ‘Open File Location’.


Your ‘dwm.exe’ file should be stored in Windows/System32 folder. Then you can definitely exclude virus as an option. DWM.exe

However, as mentioned earlier, check your computer for malware, just to be sure!


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