Svchost.exe gets worse before it’s fixed

Scott dunn By Scott Dunn

Problems with an important Windows component, svchost.exe, can consume up to 100% of CPU time.

Now, a beta release of Windows Live Messenger threatens to spread the problem to even more users, unless their systems are patched soon.

The svchost.exe saga has persisted for months

Readers of the paid version of Windows Secrets are familiar with this story by now. Editorial director Brian Livingston first reported the issue nearly a year ago, on July 27, 2006. Contributing editor Susan Bradley has documented Microsoft’s attempts to solve it in the Jan. 18, Apr. 19, May 10, and May 24 issues this year. The problem has risen to a such a degree that we feel all Windows users should be aware of it.

Microsoft has long known of issues with svchost.exe — the process that runs services of DLLs (dynamic link libraries). There are many symptoms associated with the problem. Among the most common is a drastic slowdown of computer performance as svchost.exe consumes memory and CPU cycles.

The cause of the issue turned out to be the service that provides Automatic Updates. In response, many users began disabling Microsoft Update, an enhanced version of the more-limited Windows Update.

Recently, users who installed the beta 8.5 version of Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger found that Microsoft Update is automatically turned on, with no choice for opting out. If you don’t read the initial installer dialog carefully, you might not even notice what has happened. The practice potentially exposes an even wider number of users to the svchost.exe bug. (For more information, see a posting by a blogger named Pharod.)

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2007-06-21: