If you’ve installed NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience software, you’ll see quite a few NVIDIA processes running in the background on your PC. We counted ten separate processes in our Windows Task Manager. But what do they all do?
We reached out to NVIDIA for an explanation of these processes, but they wouldn’t provide any additional information. We suppose that’s not surprising—not even Microsoft explains all the processes in Windows itself. But we learned a lot just by poking around.
(Warning: We talk about disabling services and ending tasks to puzzle out what does what here, but we don’t actually recommend you start manually disabling services or ending tasks. We don’t know exactly what each process does.)
You’ll see a lot of “NVIDIA Container” processes running on your PC. This program, named nvcontainer.exe, appears to be responsible for running and containing other NVIDIA processes. In other words, NVIDIA Container isn’t doing much itself. It’s just running other NVIDIA tasks.
The SysInternals Process Explorer software, now owned by Microsoft, has a process hierarchy that shows many of these NVIDIA processes launch other NVIDIA processes.
Quite a few of these NVIDIA Container processes are associated with background tasks implemented as system services. For example, if you open the Services application, you’ll see four NVIDIA services: NVIDIA Display Container LS, NVIDIA LocalSystem Container, NVIDIA NetworkService Container, and NVIDIA Telemetry Container.
By default, all these services are set to run automatically and always stay running in the background, except for the NVIDIA NetworkService Container. Unfortunately, NVIDIA did not give these services informative descriptions in the Services app.
NVIDIA Display Container LS (NVDisplay.ContainerLocalSystem) handles some display tasks. For example, if you open the NVIDIA Control Panel and click Desktop > Show Notification Tray Icon, this service is responsible for showing the icon in your notification area. If you end the service, the NVIDIA notification icon will vanish.
However, this service doesn’t seem to handle many other display tasks. Even if you disable this service, the GeForce Experience overlay still appears to function normally.
It’s tough to pin down everything the associated service does, and each likely performs a number of related tasks. For example, the NVIDIA LocalSystem Container (NvContainerLocalSystem) and NVIDIA NetworkService Container (NvContainerNetworkService) services are both required for using NVIDIA GameStream.
The NVIDIA ShadowPlay Helper process (nvsphelper64.exe on 64-bit versions of Windows or nvsphelper.exe on 32-bit versions of Windows) appears to listen for the hotkey that opens the GeForce Experience overlay from anywhere on your operating system. It’s Alt+Z by default, but you can customize it from within the GeForce Experience application. If you end this process in the Task Manager, Alt+Z won’t open the overlay anymore.
And, if you head to Settings > General in GeForce Experience and toggle the “In-Game Overlay” off, this process will vanish.
Although NVIDIA ShadowPlay is the name of the feature that records gameplay, the ShadowPlay Helper just appears responsible for opening the overlay. When you turn on Instant Replay or otherwise start recording gameplay, another NVIDIA Container process starts using CPU, disk, and GPU resources. So at least one of the NVIDIA Container processes handles gameplay recording with NVIDIA ShadowPlay.
The NVIDIA Share processes (NVIDIA Share.exe)—and yes, there are two of them—also appear to be part of the GeForce Experience overlay. This makes sense, as the overlay contains sharing features for sharing video clips and screenshots of your gameplay on a variety of different services.
When you disable the In-Game Overlay from GeForce Experience, these processes will also vanish from your system.
However, if you end both NVIDIA Share processes and then press Alt+Z, the overlay will reopen and you’ll see that the NVIDIA Share processes are now running once again. This seems to demonstrate that the ShadowPlay Helper listens for the keyboard shortcut and then hands off to the NVIDIA Share processes, which handle the overlay.
If you peek in the C:\Program Files (x86)\NVIDIA Corporation\NvNode folder (or C:\Program Files\NVIDIA Corporation\NvNode instead if you’re using a 32-bit version of Windows), you’ll see the script files it uses. A quick glance at the scripts reveals the NVIDIA Web Helper is used for automatically downloading new drivers and installing them, as well as other tasks like signing into an NVIDIA account.
If you do want to disable some NVIDIA processes, toggling the “In-Game Overlay” off in GeForce Experience is a guaranteed safe way to do it. This will get rid of the NVIDIA ShadowPlay Helper process and the two NVIDIA Share processes until you turn it back on. Again, we don’t generally recommend disabling services from the Services menu—using the program’s built-in options is generally a safer way to cut down on these running processes.