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The Shell Infrastructure Host process is an important part of the Windows system. It is integral to the graphical interface and is responsible for effects like windows transparency, Start Menu layout, and the background image slideshow.

Peek at the running processes in Task Manager on Windows and you’ll likely see the Shell Infrastructure Host process. If you’re curious what sihost.exe is, what it does, and perhaps why it sometimes uses a lot of CPU resources, here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Shell Infrastructure Host Process, and What Does It Do?

The “Shell Infrastructure Host” is a critical process in Windows. Alongside other processes, such as the Shell Experience Host, it’s responsible for things like window transparency, the layout of the Start Menu, the desktop background slideshow, and several other graphical elements of the operating system (OS).

In Task Manager, where its process name is sihost.exe, Shell Infrastructure Host can be found in the Windows Processes section. Under normal conditions, it will consume very few system resources. Occasionally, the resources consumed by the Shell Infrastructure Host can spike unexpectedly, causing lag, system slowdown, and even crashes.

the shell infrastructure host process in task manager

Why Is the Process Using So Much CPU Power?

When operating under normal conditions, the Shell Infrastructure Host process will use only tiny amounts of CPU and power resources when specific graphical changes are made. It will also use a small amount of memory (or RAM) at all times.

Occasionally that resource usage will spike, with users reporting up to 70% of CPU power being used by the process. This spike can sometimes last for hours, which can be both worrying and frustrating if it affects PC performance.

The main reasons for this problem are usually an app or apps with a memory leak, and incorrectly configured or out-of-date personalization settings. One of the easiest and most reliable ways to prevent the problem is to apply any available updates to Windows and apps.

Another common cause of high CPU usage by this process is having your desktop background set to Slideshow mode. If updating the operating system didn’t help, try setting the desktop background to a static image. If that helps, but you still want a slideshow, try using images from a different location or installing a third-party desktop slideshow app.

If the increase in resources only occurs when a particular app is running, it points to a memory leak. The easiest way to fix this is to repair the app in Settings.

Can You Disable Shell Infrastructure Host?

There is no way to permanently disable the process, and we wouldn’t advise doing so even if there was. Disabling the process would almost certainly prevent Windows from booting and leave you staring at a blue screen of death (BSOD).

You can end the process temporarily in Task Manager, to see if that fixes the high CPU use, but it will automatically restart after a few seconds. To do this, open Task Manager, find the Shell Infrastructure Host under Windows Processes, and right-click on it. Select “End Task” from the menu.

Is Shell Infrastructure Host a Virus?

If you’re worried Shell Infrastucture Host is a virus, the answer is almost certainly no. The Shell Infrastructure Host is a normal and essential part of Windows 10 and 11. Whenever Windows is running normally, you should expect to see it in the Task Manager.

The CPU and memory spikes could possibly be caused by malware on your computer, but the process itself is not likely to have been hijacked by a virus. If you are still worried, performing a full virus scan with an up-to-date and reliable antivirus program is always an option.

Profile Photo for Russ Ware Russ Ware
Russ is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about technology. He loves exploring and figuring out how complex things work, and sharing that knowledge with others, something he has been doing online and in print for more than 15 years. When not writing for How-To Geek, Russ can usually be found planning his first novel or taking something apart to see how it works.
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