Fix: Desktop Window Manager high GPU usage on Windows 11/10

by Cesar Cadenas
Cesar Cadenas
Cesar Cadenas
Cesar has been writing for and about technology going on for 6 years when he first started writing tech articles for his university paper. Since then, his passion... read more
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  • As the Desktop Window Manager can sometimes cause your system to run slow, having a set of useful methods available can have a huge impact.
  • To start resolving this issue, you will need to update the drivers, and can also deactivate some other options from Windows 11.
  • Modifying the personalization settings can also prove useful if your encounter this annoying issue on your PC.

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Desktop Windows Manager (also known as DWM.exe) is the system manager that renders your computer’s user interface by utilizing the graphics card onto your monitor.

It enables all of the visual effects that appear like transparent windows, animations, thumbnails, themes, wallpapers, you name it. It’s all done by DWM.

It’s a pretty old process that was first introduced back on Windows Vista and has since become an important part of Windows computers.

Some users have encountered issues as a message pops up saying that their GPU memory is full, which can cause a lot of stress and confusion.

It’s also the same process that every app and program on your Windows computer uses to display itself on one desktop. However, DWM has the habit of using a lot of your GPU, although this happens rarely.

What can and can’t I do to fix this issue?

First off, what you can’t do is disable it. Desktop Windows Manager is such an integral part of Windows computer that Microsoft has made it so you can’t turn it off.

Resource management has gotten better for DWM over the years that it typically uses one to three percent of your GPU, which is normal.

And even if you could disable Desktop Windows Manager, it’s still not recommended that you do it. What you can do instead is update your drivers, turn off visual effects, adjust personalization, and turn off Fast Startup. These are some of the things that you can do to fix DWM from eating too many resources.

This guide will show you how to perform Desktop Windows Manager fixes on both Windows 10 and Windows 11 computers. This DWM resource problem occurs on both operating systems and the process of fixing both in each OS is similar to each other.

How to stop Desktop Windows Manager from high GPU usage?

1. Update drivers

  1. If you prefer to manually update your drivers or do it yourself, you can do it via the Device Manager.
  2. On Windows 10, type in Device Manager in the search bar and click the entry that appears.
  3. Click on Display adapters in the Device Manager.
  4. Right-click on the GPU and select Update driver in the drop-down menu.
  5. Select Search automatically for drivers.
  6. The drivers will automatically be installed.
  7. On Windows 11, do the same thing by search for the Device Manager in the search bar.
  8. Like before, click on Display adapters and right-click on a graphics cards.
  9. Select Update drivers.
  10. Choose Search automatically for drivers to update.

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2. Turn off visual effects

  1. On Windows 10, type in performance of Windows in the search bar.
  2. Select the entry that reads Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.
  3. A menu titled Performance Options will appear that allows you to adjust the look of your Windows 10 computer and how it performs.
  4. You can select which functions work or don’t. Default is Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer.
  5. If you want your computer to focus on lowering Desktop Windows Manager’s resource consumption, select Adjust for best performance.
  6. If you want more control over what’s allowed, select Custom and enable or disable the features using the menu below.
  7. Once you’ve made changes, select Apply then OK.
  8. The process is the same for Windows 11. Search for Adjust the appear and performance of Windows.
  9. You can lower resource consumption by selecting Adjust for best performance.
  10. Or select Custom and make your selection there.
  11. Click Apply then OK to finish.

3. Change personalization

  1. On your desktop, right click anywhere and select Personalize. The process is the same for Windows 10 and 11, but the guide will focus on Windows 11 for brevity.
  2. For this, you will need to make selections that are easier and less resource intense on the GPU.
  3. In the Personalization section of the Settings menu, start by Background.
  4. Next to Personalize your background, click on Picture to bring down a menu.
  5. Select Solid color.
  6. Select a color to serve as your background. Doesn’t matter which, so long as the background doesn’t have a graphic that will increase GPU consumption.
  7. You can also create your own custom color.
  8. Back in the Personalization menu, select Colors.
  9. Turn off Transparency effects.
  10. Back in the menu, select Themes.
  11. Select either Windows (Light) or Windows (Dark). Anything with solid colors is what you should strive for.

4. Disable the Fast Startup feature

  1. Begin by search for the Control Panel in the search bar. Process is the same for Windows 10.
  2. Ensure that either Large Icons or Small Icons are in the View by entry.
  3. If not, click on Category and make the change to either Icon choice.
  4. Select Power Options.
  5. On the left hand side, select Choose what power buttons do. On Windows 10, it’s “Choose what the power button does”
  6. Click Change settings that are currently unavailable in order to enable them.
  7. Under Shutdown settings, click Turn on fast startup (recommended) and Hibernate to turn them off.
  8. Return to the search bar and bring up System Configuration.
  9. In this new window, click the Services tab.
  10. Click Hide all Microsoft services.
  11. Then click the Disable all button.
  12. Afterwards, restart your computer.

Are there other ways to fix problems with GPU usage?

One solution that wasn’t touched upon for Desktop Windows Manager is using antivirus software. In certain situations, malware may be the cause of DWM suddenly using more resources.

Antiviral software is a great way to get rid of that malware and set everything back to normal. Most software that works for Windows 10 also works for Windows 11.

Other GPU problems may be due to high internal temperatures. Normal temperatures range from 149 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (65 to 85 degrees Celsius) but go a bit higher during intense gaming sessions.

Prolonged high temperatures can cause permanent damage to your GPU, so it’s recommended that you be aware of how hot it gets.

Conversely, there are also solutions for low GPU usage paired up with high CPU usage. It’s a mismatched problem that can be caused by bottlenecking, but not always.

From this strange discrepancy, you may have to deal with frame drops or your processor overheating. This problem may be caused by out-of-date drivers or certain apps getting in the way.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions on other Windows 11 apps. Also, leave comments about guides that you’d like to see or information on other Windows 11 features or list guides like this.

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