How to Fix Multiple Windows Explorer Processes

Give a try to these simple solutions right away

by Matthew Adams
Matthew Adams
Matthew Adams
Windows & Software Expert
Matthew is a freelancer who has produced a variety of articles on various topics related to technology. His main focus is the Windows OS and all the things... read more
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Alex Serban
Alex Serban
Windows Server & Networking Expert
After moving away from the corporate work-style, Alex has found rewards in a lifestyle of constant analysis, team coordination and pestering his colleagues. Holding an MCSA Windows Server... read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • Malware or a simple folder view option can generate multiple Windows explorer.exe processes in Task Manager.
  • Some users might only need to disable a folder option setting in Explorer to fix multiple Windows Explorer running in Task Manager.
  • Others might need to purge malware to kill off multiple instances of Windows Explorer in Task Manager.

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A few users told us about a curious issue in which they see multiple Windows (File) Explorer processes in Task Manager. Those have wondered why Task Manager shows multiple Explorer processes.

That issue can occur in Windows 11 and older platforms of Microsoft’s desktop OS series. You can fix multiple Explorer processes in Task Manager with the potential resolutions below. Even more, here’s what to do if Windows Explorer is slow.

What causes Task Manager to show multiple instances of Windows Explorer?

There are two potential reasons for Task Manager showing multiple Explorer processes. Those causes are:

  • A Launch folder windows in a separate process option – This causes an extra Explorer process to be launched when enabled. If you see a couple of Explorer.exe processes, that option is probably why.
  • Malware masquerading as File Explorer – If one of the multiple Explorer.exe processes has very high RAM or CPU usage, there could be malware on your PC. Explorer.exe malware uses the Windows Explorer process to disguise itself on infected PCs.

One way to tell is to check the source folder of the Explorer.exe process. To do so, right-click a Windows Explorer process in Task Manager and select Open file location.

multiple windows explorer in task manager

All legitimate Explorer processes will have a C: Windows source folder. If the Explorer process has a different location, you’re probably dealing with malware, possibly in the form of a Trojan.

We recommend users go through the following troubleshooting steps when Task Manager shows multiple Explorer.exe processes. Apply the resolutions in the order specified.

How can I fix multiple explorer.exe processes in Task Manager?

1. Disable the Launch folder windows in a separate process checkbox

  1. Click the folder library icon on your taskbar to view File Explorer.
    File Explorer taskbar button multiple windows explorer in task manager
  2. Select the See more menu button on Explorer’s command bar.
  3. Click Options to bring up the General tab in Folder Options.
    See more menu multiple windows explorer in task manager
  4. Select the Folder Options window’s View tab.
  5. Deselect the Launch folder windows in a separate process checkbox.
    The Launch folder windows checkbox multiple windows explorer in task manager
  6. Click Apply to set the new folder option.
  7. Select OK to close Folder Options.
Note icon
NOTE
In Windows 10, you’ll need to select the View tab. Then click the Options button. Select Change folder and search options from there.

2. Run an antivirus (malware) scan

  1. Double-click a Windows Security icon inside the system tray area.
  2. Click Virus & threat protection > Scan options in Windows Defender.
    Virus & threat protection tab multiple windows explorer in task manager
  3. Select the Full scan radio button.
    The Full scan option multiple windows explorer in task manager
  4. Click Scan now to initiate Windows Defender’s scanning.
    Scan now button multiple windows explorer in task manager
  5. Wait for the scanning to complete. Click Start actions if the scan detects anything.
  6. Restart Windows after the antivirus scan.

Windows Report also recommends users scan for and quarantine malware with the free Malwarebytes version. Malwarebytes is among the most efficient third-party tools for purging malware.

3. Run the SFC scan command

Note icon
NOTE
We suggest this resolution for users who have issues accessing File Explorer after purging malware with an antivirus utility.
  1. Press Win key + S, and input Command Prompt within the Type here to search box that hotkey activates.
  2. Click Command Prompt’s Run as administrator option on the right side of the search tool.
    Run as administrator option multiple windows explorer in task manager
  3. Input this command text and press Enter to run System File Checker: sfc /scannow
    sfc scan multiple windows explorer in task manager
  4. Then wait for the scan to finish, which probably won’t take much longer than 20 minutes or so.

Those troubleshooting steps will kill off multiple Explorer processes in Task Manager. Hopefully, you won’t need to do anything more than disable Launch folder windows in a separate process.

If you still see multiple processes with that option disabled, proceed with an antivirus scan. Do so with Windows Security, Malwarebytes, or any other third-party antivirus tool installed on your PC.

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