What is svchost.exe? Is it a virus?

Anton P. | September 14, 2022

A svchost.exe or Service Host file is a legitimate system process in the Windows operating system. However, users tend to confuse it with a virus because hackers can disguise malicious activities as integral system parts.

Official svchost.exe has a designated location and represents one of the essential components in Microsoft Windows. Therefore, legitimate svchost.exe is safe in most cases unless an infection hides behind it.

svchost exe what is it

But how do you differentiate between a trusted and fake Service Host process in your Task Manager? Let’s figure out the official purpose of this Windows component and when it might be a threat.

What is svchost.exe in Windows? What does it do?

A svchost.exe process is an essential component of Windows services. It is found in %SystemRoot%\SysWOW64\ or %SystemRoot%\System32. Other locations for this .exe file could be a red flag. Furthermore, since Windows uses this process for many tasks, its RAM usage might be higher.

So, the official responsibility of svchost.exe is to host services and optimize the use of system resources. It does so by launching dynamic-link libraries (DLLs). Since Windows cannot activate DLLs directly, it dedicates svchost.exe to do this job.

Thus, Service Host processes are in control of your Windows device, running as efficiently as possible. Killing them could adversely affect your device and prevent it from working properly.

Why are there multiple svchost.exe processes active?

Multiple Service Host processes might be active in your Task Manager simultaneously. It is because each process deals with hosting different services.

For instance, Windows Defender uses svchost.exe for tasks like reaching available updates. A separate process could be in charge of managing other network-related procedures.

Having multiple Service Host processes also works as a way of mitigating issues with this process. For instance, if one process halts, others can continue functioning.

Why is the svchost.exe using so much memory?

Svchost.exe needs computer resources to operate, mainly memory and CPU. When your PC performs an action associated with it, the use of these assets can increase. For the most part, offline operations can rise but won’t be as heavy as those reaching the internet.

For instance, a svchost.exe netsvcs process should show significant resource use when Windows installs updates. Such actions can lead to a substantial growth spurt for memory and CPU usage.

Therefore, consumers can find these upsurges suspicious. Usually, they are normal, and usage levels should return to normal after computers finish setting up updates.

However, if a process consumes 90-100% of available resources, it could indicate a problem. One reason behind this could be that malicious activity has disguised itself as this legitimate Windows process. However, it might not always be the case.

Can svchost.exe be dangerous?

Svchost.exe can only be dangerous if your computer has a malicious program running. Such processes could hide behind names of critical services, such as Service Host. Thus, it could dodge detection longer since users will assume it to be safe.

Infections can be responsible for many malicious activities, like collecting data from your PC and sending it to hackers. In this case, the fake Service Host process should continuously gobble a significant amount of resources and bandwidth. Also, consumption should not go down regardless of your activities or changes.

How to stop svchost.exe from using the internet

Generally, you should not prevent a legitimate Service Host file from using the internet. It is possible to stop BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service). However, if you want the process to be less resource-consuming, halt activities associated with that Service Host.

Can you delete the fake svchost.exe? Signs of a malicious process

You should not delete legitimate svchost.exe files. However, there are signs that this process conceals more disturbing activities:

  • You can find svchost.exe outside %SystemRoot%\SysWOW64 or %SystemRoot%\System32. For instance, the process should be suspicious if a random folder like Music or Downloads contains it.
  • Open Task Manager and find the questionable svchost.exe process. Pick the Processes tab, rick-click on Service Host, and select Properties. Opt for Details, and see the name under Copyright. If it states anything but Microsoft Corporation, it might be dangerous.
  • The Service Host process utilizes the maximum amount of CPU regardless of what you do. Resource usage can exceed normal levels as soon as you boot your computer.
  • You find the process in regular folders, but its name slightly differs. For instance, instead of svchost.exe, it is svcchost.exe or svhost.exe.

The best action is to use trusted antivirus software and scan your system. You can also inspect that file individually.

A more tech-savvy solution is getting rid of the file manually:

  1. Open Task Manager and right-click on the svchost.exe process. Choose the Open file location option.
  2. Keep the folder open.
  3. Return to the Task Manager and right-click on the process. Select End task.
  4. Stop each process within the targeted Service Host in the same way.
  5. Return to the folder and delete the svchost.exe file like any other.

Ways malware disguised as svchost.exe can enter your device

Malware has many venues for distribution. Here are some common ways to accidentally receive an infection that will pretend to be svchost.exe.

  • Phishing emails. Links or files in emails can cause many issues. Attachments like PDFs or Word documents have been known as the most popular file types for distributing malware. Additionally, random links can also aim to capture personal details or urge you to download malicious software.
  • Unknown software. Avoid downloading programs from unknown sources and developers. It could be dangerous or, to the very least, an unwanted tool.
  • Drive-by downloads. Such downloads happen without users’ knowledge, and you can trigger them by clicking on links or pop-ups.
  • Vulnerability exploitation. Update your software as often as possible. Malware could slither into your device thanks to flaws facilitating their arrival.
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