What Is conhost.exe and Why Is It Running?


You are no doubt reading this article because you’ve stumbled across the Console Window Host (conhost.exe) process in Task Manager and are wondering what it is. We’ve got the answer for you.

This article is part of our ongoing series explaining various processes found in Task Manager, like svchost.exe, dwm.exe, ctfmon.exe, mDNSResponder.exe, rundll32.exe, Adobe_Updater.exe, and many others. Don’t know what those services are? Better start reading!

So What Is the Console Window Host Process?

Understanding the Console Window Host process requires a little bit of history. In the Windows XP days, the Command Prompt was handled by a process named the ClientServer Runtime System Service (CSRSS). As the name implies, CSRSS was a system level service. This created a couple of problems. First, a crash in CSRSS could bring down a whole system, which exposed not just reliability issues, but possible security vulnerabilities as well. The second problem was that CSRSS could not be themed, because the developers didn’t want to risk theme code to run in a system process. So, the Command Prompt always had the classic look rather than using new interface elements.

Notice in the screenshot of Windows XP below that the Command Prompt doesn’t get the same styling as an app like Notepad.

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Windows Vista introduced the Desktop Window Manager—a service that “draws” composite views of windows onto your desktop rather than letting each individual app handle that on its own. The Command Prompt gained some superficial theming from this (like the glassy frame present in other windows), but it came at the expense of being able to drag and drop files, text, and so on into the Command Prompt window.

Still, that theming only went so far. If you take a look at the console in Windows Vista, it looks like it uses the same theme as everything else, but you’ll notice that the scrollbars are still using the old style. This is because the Desktop Window Manager handles drawing the title bars and frame, but an old-fashioned CSRSS window still sits inside.

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Enter Windows 7 and the Console Window Host process. As the name implies, its a host process for the console window. The process sort of sits in the middle between CSRSS and the Command Prompt (cmd.exe), allowing Windows to fix both of the previous issues—interface elements like scrollbars draw correctly, and you can again drag and drop into the Command Prompt. And that’s the method still used in Windows 8 and 10, allowing all the new interface elements and styling that have come along since Windows 7.

Even…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

I have a crazy passion for #music, #celebrity #news & #fashion! I'm always out and about on Twitter.
Sasha Harriet

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