How to fix high CPU usage by dwm.exe on Windows 10?


Issue: How to fix high CPU usage by dwm.exe on Windows 10?

When I try to log on to my computer, I get the error saying: “dwm.exe was unable to start correctly.” If I click the OK or X button, the message disappears, but the Windows screen remains gray, so I have to force it to restart. Sometimes after several restarts, the system boots up normally, but the next time I turn off my PC and want to turn it on, the same error message appears, and I keep struggling with forced restarts again. Please tell me what I should do to fix this?

Solved Answer

Dwm.exe stands for Desktop Window Manager and can be found running in the background. It belongs to the desktop graphical user interface and is responsible for handling various visual UI effects when using Windows. While initially might not seem too important (transparent windows or live taskbar thumbnails are things that most people could live without), but it also the reason why users can opt for 4K or 8K[1] video or/and gaming.

Unfortunately, many people have reported that the dwm.exe file in Task Manager uses up too much CPU. The resource consumption is usually higher than 30% and changes continuously. Some users said the process is usually working fine and only spikes up to over 80% CPU, spinning the fans faster and lagging or dropping the framerates of a video game.[2]

In other words, the high CPU usage of dwm.exe typically occurs when performing graphically-intensive tasks on a computer, such as playing video games or viewing high-resolution videos. Considering that the process is responsible for graphical effects, it makes sense that the issue occurs. However, why does it happen?

The strange and unusual indicators raise people’s suspicions about a PC being infected with malware.[3] The problem is that system’s scan with a professional anti-virus does not show any threats. If you have noticed such activity on your system, don’t fall for panic because the dwm.exe process is seldom related to a computer infection.

Just like any other Windows file, the dwm.exe file can go corrupt due to various reasons, the most common of which are:

  • Third-party anti-virus;
  • Explorer.exe process;
  • Problematic Windows services;
  • mdi264.dll service;
  • Graphics card drivers.

As always, there is no universal solution for everybody since all machines run different configurations, and reasons for errors or other PC issues can arise due to different reasons. Sometimes, these reasons are difficult to figure out, and a lot of troubleshooting needs to be done in order to fix dwm.exe high CPU usage.

How to fix high CPU usage by dwm.exe on Windows 10?

Therefore, if you do not want to bother with the manual solutions below, we highly advise you to try running a scan with an automatic PC repair tool ReimageMac Washing Machine X9. If the reason for the error lies within Windows system file corruption, malware damage, or similar, it will eliminate the problem automatically, resolving the high CPU problem quickly.

Method 1. Disable anti-virus and stop Windows Firewall temporarily

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Windows Firewall, third-party anti-virus, and Windows services quite often tend to collide, which is we would recommend you to disable third-party anti-virus if you are using one and stop Windows Firewall (temporarily).

  1. Press Ctrl + Alt + Esc to open Task Manager.
  2. Locate your anti-virus on the Services tab, right-click it, and select End Task.
  3. Then find the icon of the anti-virus on the toolbar, click it, and select Disable.
  4. Once done, type in Control Panel in Windows search and press Enter.
  5. Go to System and Security > Windows Defender Firewall. Disable firewall
  6. Press Turn Windows Firewall On or Off option.
  7. If required, enter your administrator password and press OK.
  8. Then set Windows Firewall off of both private and public network. Disable firewall 2
  9. Click OK to save the changes and close everything.

Method 2. Restart Windows Explorer process

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  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc and open Task Manager.
  2. Press More Details.
  3. Right-click on Windows Explorer and select Restart. Restart Windows Explorer

Method 3. Check the mdi264.dll process

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If you find the mdi264.dll file is running a process in Task Manager, it might be that it’s the culprit of the dwm.exe error. To fix that, you should delete this file by following these steps:

  1. Type in cmd in Windows search.
  2. Right-click on Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.
  3. Type the following command and press Enter after each (note: replace [username] with your particular username)

    C: cd\\Users\\[username]\\AppData\\Local\\Temp\\ del mdi264.dll

  4. Once done, close everything and reboot your PC. Check the mdi264.dll process

Method 4. Perform a clean boot

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  1. Press Windows key and type msconfig.
  2. Click System Configuration and open Services tab.
  3. Mark Hide all Microsoft services box and select Disable all. Disable non-Windows processes
  4. Open Startup tab and click Open Task Manager.
  5. Click on each startup item and select Disable.
  6. Close down the Task Manager
  7. Go to Boot tab, select Safe boot and click Apply and OK. Do a Safe boot

The clean boot will help you to isolate the software or services that are triggering the dwm.exe error.

Method 5. Update or reinstall your GPU drivers

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To repair damaged system, you have to purchase the licensed version of Reimage Reimage.

Sometimes the dwm.exe error occurs after upgrading system’s drivers. In this case, it might be that the new Nvidia driver’s version is not compatible with your operating system, which is why we recommend installing the earlier version.

  1. Press Windows key + X and select Device Manager.
  2. Expand Display Adapters and right-click on Nvidia driver.
  3. Select Update Driver and pick Search automatically for drivers. Update GPU drivers
  4. Wait till drivers install and reboot.

Device Manager is by far not an optimal choice for your driver updates – especially when it comes to GPU drivers (it often fails to determine that the drivers are out of date). Thus, you should either visit the manufacturer's website and install the newest drivers based on your GPU model or instead go for an easy way and employ an automatic driver updater such as DriverFix. By employing it, you will never have to worry about updating drivers again, as it will be done for you with a mere few clicks of a button.

Method 6. Select High Performance for dwm.exe via Graphics settings

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To repair damaged system, you have to purchase the licensed version of Reimage Reimage.

Keep in mind that the following solution can be applied for any apps that are intensive on GPU usage.

  • Right-click on Start and pick Settings.
  • Go to System.
  • On the right side, scroll down until you find Graphics settings – click on it. Go to graphics settings
  • Under Graphics performance preference, click on Browse and select dwm.exe from the following location:


  • Click on Options, select High Performance and click Save. Set to high performance

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Don’t pay ransomware authors – use alternative data recovery options

Malware attacks, particularly ransomware, are by far the biggest danger to your pictures, videos, work, or school files. Since cybercriminals use a robust encryption algorithm to lock data, it can no longer be used until a ransom in bitcoin is paid. Instead of paying hackers, you should first try to use alternative recovery methods that could help you to retrieve at least some portion of the lost data. Otherwise, you could also lose your money, along with the files. One of the best tools that could restore at least some of the encrypted files –  Data Recovery Pro.

About the author
Lucia Danes
Lucia Danes - Security researcher

Lucia Danes is the news editor at UGetFix. She is always on the move because the eager for knowledge makes her travel around the globe and attend InfoSec events and conferences.

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