Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Many programs are designed such that they will appear more than once in Task Manager. We'll look at why that is, and when you should care.

In Task Manager I have many duplicated lines, e.g CCSVCHST.EXE twice and IEXPLORE.EXE twice but with all are different PID'S and memory sizes. How do I stop this and clean it up? It seems a big drain on memory. Also some progs like WINWORD.EXE don't clear task manager when closed but will close if I use END etc. Any ideas?

Ideas? You bet. I have plenty.

Things are actually more complex than they appear. The extremely short version is that you actually don't want to "clean it up", because things are likely working exactly as they should.

Or, in some cases, exactly as you've instructed.

When it comes to multiple instances in task manager, the most commonly referenced program is something called SVCHOST. Here's a peek into my machine:

Mutliple SVCHOST instances in task manager

You can see I have eight instances of SVCHOST running. In fact, it's such a common question that I've discussed it specifically in a prior article What is svchost, and why is there more than one copy running?

"The fact is that some programs are just designed to have multiple copies running."

The fact is that some programs are just designed to have multiple copies running. SVCHOST is a great example, as it's a utility "host" program for a variety of different services that run within windows. Each one may (or may not) cause a new instance of SVCHOST to appear. That's simply how the software was written.

I can't speak to CCSVCHST.EXE from your example, though it appears to be a part of Norton internet security. I would assume that it too is there twice by design, and terminating or preventing one instance from running would potentially break some important aspect of what Norton does. Again, having two instances of CCSVCHST.EXE is likely because that's how the software was written and what it expects.

IEXPLORE.EXE is an easier scenario to understand, since it's mostly under your control. IEXPLORE.EXE is Internet Explorer. Open IE once, and you'll get one IEXPLORE.EXE in your task list. Open it again (via the start menu or desktop icon) - and you'll get two. Open it again and you'll get three. Start closing them and one by one they'll disappear.

They're there because you asked for them. Smile

Again, this is actually really common as people fire up multiple browser windows to look at multiple sites and do multiple things all at the same time.

With IE there's a catch that can be really confusing, though. Note that I said to start it again "via the start menu or desktop icon". That starts a new copy of IE from scratch. However, if in a running copy of IE you type CTRL+N for "New Window" you'll get another IE window, but it'll be from the same IEXPLORE.EXE process. In other words, you won't see a new IEXPLORE.EXE created when you type CTRL+N, even though it'll pretty much look the same as having started a new IE from scratch via the Start Menu. Like I said, a tad confusing if you're trying to keep track.

So that's one way to control the number of processes created for IE at least - use CTRL+N instead of the start menu to open multiple windows.

But aside from browsers, most programs don't provide that kind of functionality. They fall into either of two camps:

  • Multiple Instance: like IE, when you start a second copy, you get a second copy. You'll see two entries in Task Manager.

  • Single Instance: when you start a second copy it first looks to see if another copy is already running. If so, it switches to the first copy, closing the second you tried to start. In effect, while the second copy is running for a second to perform the check, you are forced into having and using only one copy of the program at a time. Task Manager itself is a great example. If you try to run it twice, you'll still end up with only the single copy running.

Now, about those processes that won't go away when you close them.

In many cases it's actually a "feature", though I'm more likely to consider it an annoyance.

I see it most often in Outlook, and here's how it works: depending on how you "close" the application, it actually closes the window but not the program. As you've seen, the program continues to run without any visible window on the screen.

Why? The typical reason is that the software designers are betting that you're very likely to run it again, and leaving it running will make it look like it was able to start up much faster the second time.

As for me, I'd prefer to make that decision myself, thank you.

What I learned with Outlook (through trial and error, I'm afraid) is that if you close it by just closing the window (clicking on the "x" in the upper right, or typing ALT+F4) the window will close but the application may keep running. On the other hand if you click on the File menu and then click on Exit, the entire application actually closed.

For all I know that's changed by now, and I'm also fairly certain that other applications may not react the same way to that same magical incantation. But it's worth experimenting with, though be sure to give the applications some time to disappear as well. Quite often they'll make their window disappear instantly, to look like they closed very quickly, but the process may hang around for a while performing cleanup and other tasks before it finally exits.

Ultimately, though, it's also not really a problem unless you're experiencing some symptom that can be traced down to the application still running. In my case, it was years ago when I was trying to copy Outlook's PST file and couldn't because even though not visible the program was still running and had it locked.

For 99% of users, I honestly wouldn't spend a lot of time being concerned about it.

Article C3735 - May 18, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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16 Comments
anon-
May 19, 2009 10:42 AM

Event viewer.
Multiples that look the same.
Click on either one and PROCESS DOES **NOT** CLOSE.
Try this multiple times, on both even clicking on the 'do you want to close' dialog box - still not close.
Suggestions??

It's unclear what application you're closing - event viewer? It should close, but there are processes that cannot be closed because they are critical to system operation.
- Leo
20-May-2009

ryan
May 19, 2009 1:18 PM

firefox always has NEW WINDWOWS, it will never open another copy :) sometimes it yells at you to close the existing app first...but only when its not responding

Not quite true. FireFox opens seperate processes for me, for example, when I click on the FireFox shortcut.
- Leo
20-May-2009

RJ
May 20, 2009 9:45 AM

IE7 and higher will open a new process for each additional tab that you create, as well. I think it just now makes all windows a new process, for simplicity.

As well, I use Outlook 2003 at my work and it seems to close itself entirely if you use the X button. At least, it won't continue to tie up any files it had open (like PSTs), though it takes a few seconds after the window closes before it really lets go.

Michael
May 21, 2009 8:42 PM

IE7 does not create a new process for each tab. Neither does IE8. The rules for IE processes changed drastically between IE7 and IE8.

I don't fully understand the rules for IE8, but its definitely not a simple one to one relationship between a tab and a process. For example, Java gets its own process in IE8.

Ron S
May 27, 2009 5:35 PM

I am running IE7 on an XP machine & when I have more than one tab open it uses alot of memory, as does the numerous svchost.exe processes. I have 1.5 GB memory on the Sony Vaio, but the TaskManager frequently shows I am using 100%, or very close to it, memory making the computer unuseable. Also, when I shut it down I frequently find programs "hanging" like Outlook, MS Money, etc. Consequently, I frequently will close some programs running in the background, (systray), that I don't want to use, etc. But I still run into problems at times. I think IE6 is less memory intensive then IE7, and I am sorry I upgraded to it. Any suggestions on the 100% memory useage would be greatly appreciated!!!!

Amazon Sister
August 23, 2009 1:49 AM

A well written article Sir. Always appriciated.

You've covered basic processes that tend to run multuple instances & a few apps that run simultanious processs. So I'm thinking Info on instances not falling within these parameters would logicly begin on the next page right? :-> I just can't seem to find the 'next page' link!

"I have done my homework, knowing that most q's have already been answered somewhere if one bothers to look! But after reading umpteen pages of info, I find nothing I'd not already covered. I've also ran ALL the 'ware/av/etc.. Hijackthis shows nothing new. Reg apps find 'nada'. I've even manually checked Registry..did I say the R word? Rats! "We know a guy once who said the word registry, and three days later he was hit by a bus." (tweakomatic)

Here's my problem: Running Xp HomeEd_sp3. When browsing w IE8, only 1 window open (tabbed browsing,). I show 2/3/4 iexplore.exe entries in Task Manager. I am accessing the web by tether with my cellular phone (samsung sch-r410 on metropcs, Free Internet, Yeah!!), which I would suspect if this were not a new problem. I updated from IE7 about a month ago but only noticed the multiple processes about 10 days ago.

Closing window (all tabs), results in only 1 process closing. Even 'end process tree' closes only the highlighted process. Each instance shows similar CPU and memory usage, handles/thread counts ALL HIGH #'S, I/O writes.. Lets just say they arn't just redundant entries.. Memory usage high yet networking tab shows no unexpl'd activity.

Anyway.. Finally resigned to asking for help, I chose to bother you. I'm hoping that your High Google Ranking is equal to your 'geeky guru-ness' (as she crumples 2 floor, head bowed)...

Donna
December 31, 2009 10:43 PM

I read the answer you gave above about multiple IEXPLORER processes in task manager, but it happens to me even when I only have one IE open. As a matter of fact, it is happening right now and I only have this webpage open, no other windows or tabs. What could be causing it then?

Also, I have two of the following processes running at the same time in task manager: E_S4I2H1.EXE.
Why?

IE8 appears to run multiple processes even if you're viewing a single page. No idea why there are two, but E_S4I2H1.EXE is apparently a status monitor program for Epson printers.
Leo
01-Jan-2010

Grayskin
February 24, 2010 1:28 PM

no no no no no. You aren't understanding the problem here. The problem is that processes loaded into memory aren't deleted after the cpu reached the processes eop pointer; or two copies are allocated into memory instead of one. For example, IE8 is run ONCE. TaskMgr shows two processes of IE8 NOT one. Example 2: (Only one copy of WORD is in mem); WORD is closed (both explictly and automated); WORD is still in memory. Explain that?
IMO it's some Windows Update BS, cuz i certainly don't remember this problem before.

No, no, no yourself. IE8 runs two processes. That's a change from IE7. Word and Outlook are also known to remain in memory unless closed exactly the right way. This is not some mysterious plot - mysterious software design, perhaps, but not as horrific as people make it out to be.
Leo
25-Feb-2010

slash2
April 15, 2010 10:58 AM

i just put a fresh install of xp pro on my computer.ie8 when i open it brings up two iexplorer.exe's when i close ie8 they both stay running if i reopen ie8 the first two iexplorer.exe's stay running and it adds two more and continues on like this until theres about 20 of them running and no web pages will load...i can manually shut them down in the task manager but if i dont ....its a real pain in the neck lol...the problem started before3 i did the fresh install of ex which is why i took the chance,lost everything and ran killdisk and reinstalled new xp

Nancy Pakkala
May 15, 2010 10:45 AM

I just read your article about programs replicating themselves in task manager. My problem is that task manager is replicating itself in that window. It makes everything run so slow that you can't do anything else. I have an E Machine with Windows XP and we're on broadband. I have the AOL special edition of McAfee and it updates 2-3 times a day. Also have a firewall thru AOL and windows and Lavasoft Adaware and Registry Patrol. Any ideas?
Nancy

Valerie Mckinley
July 16, 2010 4:37 PM

I will see your "multiple" instances of Internet Explorer running after only opening one and raise you two, count them, two Windows Explorers running! And I didnt ask for either one of them. A solution to this madness would be very appreciated. Other sites are dancing around the problem too. Is there no solution? Am I to continue running my computer on 4 resources, because Internet Explorer is running the remaining 96?

It's not a problem that needs to be fixed, so there's no "solution". Internet Explorer runs multiple instances on purpose. Windows Explorer frequently does as well. (In addition to any Windows Explorer that you might have open, it's the same program - explorer.exe - that "is" your Windows Start Meny and Task Bar).

I'm afraid I don't understand your 4/96 resources comment.
Leo
17-Jul-2010

joe
February 28, 2011 10:49 PM

some of the comment writers here seem to be trolls attacking the author for trying to explain something which is really very simple and logical, but which apparently baffle the comment writers to the point of being somewhat mad and venting on a website at someone trying to help them.

StevenX
June 26, 2011 12:10 AM

I found this forum with a Google search. I have the same problem with IE8 (and now IE9) in Vista 32bit. It suddenly gets really slow to the point of nearly stopping, like one byte's going though at a time...I open Task Manager (which, as a result of the slowdown, takes about 45 seconds) and there are almost always 3 IEs open there when I only opened one, and one of them has a huge memory size (and growing). After reading the first answer I left them alone to let them close on their own. 10 minutes later I was still waiting. If you delete the one with the largest memory size, it disappears and the others do behind it. As it stands I have to run Task Manager about every third time I use my computer to dislodge the IEs. They do not, I repeat, not leave on their own (like that Thanksgiving house guest...). They do the same thing on a friend's computer.

Cammy
November 30, 2011 1:05 PM

I am no troll but I have to dispute the author's statement that the reason for multiple browser.exe entries running in the Task Mgr window is just the result of using Start to open a new window or tab for the browser. I am seeing these multiples constantly for firefox and IE and I Never use Start to open a new window. Good suggestions on how to quickly close these unwelcome multiples would be most appreciated.

Since the time this article was written browsers have taken to using multiple instances under the hood. Some will set up another instance for each tab, for example, which prevents one tab's crash from taking down all the others. I don't recommend trying to close or kill the processes simply because they're probably there legitimately.
Leo
30-Nov-2011
irad
February 23, 2012 12:31 AM

I have Windows XP, SP8 and IE 8.
When I start a IE, in task manager I see two processes, one have about 50MB, IE starts with only one tab, and the home page is google.com
Why do I have two processes ?
In IE8, each tab you open you see it as new proccess

Thanks

IE8 and other browsers now routinely use multiple processes, even if you have only one tab.
Leo
24-Feb-2012
Luigi
January 29, 2013 5:26 AM

You didn't understand the complain of the first guy at all, i know is an old article but it happen to me to and i am searching for a solution. He is asking why the program stay open after he close it example: i have now 3 instances of skype running on my Task manage/3 photoshop and so on... I cant close them in task manager and on the user end there are not even there, i closed them (Quit program/Exit program) but they are still there. That is the problem of that guy . The memory(Ram) stay Full even if no programs are running on the user end.

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