What is svchost.exe and why are so many copies running?

Someone asked me recently about the program svchost.exe, which they found on the Processes tab in Windows XP Task Manager (Control-Alt-Delete to open the Task Manager). They had a number of copies of the program running and wanted to understand more about it.

Here’s a look at some of my currently running processes, sorted alphabetically. As you can see, six copies of svchost.exe are running on my system right now.

The file svchost.exe is a Windows XP service that actually acts as a conduit for many other programs to perform their functions. The other programs are collections of code in DLL (dynamic link library) files.

In other words, svchost.exe is a tool that is being used — a conduit — not the actual working program. It’s like the rundll.exe function from Windows 98.

After looking at the illustration above, here’s a view of the running processes using the free program WinPatrol, which I discussed in the Slow Windows XP Boot Times article in my October 31st issue.

WinPatrol’s Services tab shows the many services that are running and is one of the few tools which shows the DLLs that are actually running via svchost.exe, rather than just telling you that you have multiple copies of svchost.exe running (which is what the Windows XP Task Manager does).

Once you know the DLL’s name, you can Google search for what each DLL does, in case you need to take action on it.

Of course, if you purchase WinPatrol Plus, you get access to their online database which you can access from within WinPatrol. I recommend this inexpensive purchase if you are interested at all in optimizing your PC. WinPatrol and WinPatrol Plus (the same program + a license code) are available via www.winpatrol.com.


  1. Your reply does not answer the “…why are so many copies running?” part of the question. I seems you are promoting the WinPatrol pgm.
    This is the question I also have about svchost.exe.

    • I suggest rereading the article. The program is a host for running programs in DLL’s.

      It either requires the programmer to run his program in a separate copy of SVCHOST.EXE or allows him to do that. Most sane programmers would elect to run in a separate instance of SVCHOST.EXE so other programs didn’t crash theirs.

      Regarding WinPatrol, I use it, I like it, and I recommend it. It’s not my product and I don’t receive a commission if someone buys the “Plus” version.


  2. i understand the svchost.exe files as u said, it supports all processes during startup. sometimes if this files misses the pc does start so i tend to get confused if the file its like creating virtual copies so that the pc start or what. Anyway after all this the pc displays the usual error about the file….

    • Keorapetse, svchost.exe is a program that acts as a host that enables programs written as DLL files to run. It’s not just during their startup – it’s throughout the execution of that particular program that’s written as a DLL.

      It sounds like one of the programs you’re running uses svchost.exe as its method to run – but that your program has problems. You need to figure out which program has the problem.


  3. Terry, I’m having a problem with probable corruption of the urlmon.dll on my system. I’m running Windows 7 Professional on a system I build myself (because I wanted lots of power in my system). Certain programs give me the following message “unable to access ordinal459, file is either corrupted or missing from the urlmon.dll.”
    I’ve tried all of the fixes I could find on the internet to repair the problem and they always fail. The only fix I’ve found is to run an upgrade of Windows 7 from my original disk. This always makes the issue clear up but only for about 24 to 36 hours. After that period of time the error reappears. I’ve done backups immediately following the repair, thinking I could just install the backed up files to get rid of the corrupted files. WRONG! The file remains corrupted following the re-installation of the back up.
    At this point I’m out of ideas on how to fix this issue. Do have any ideas on to permanently fix this urlmon.dll issue?

    Thanks in advance, Kurt

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