Booting a Windows PC isn’t as easy as it seems: hundreds of services and system processes spring into action to load the essential components you’ll see and use, from your desktop environment to your network connection. Some critical system processes, such as csrss.exe, are required for Windows to do this.
A lesser-known but essential system process is wudfhost.exe, an essential component that helps your Windows PC load the device drivers that allow your apps and services to control and communicate with your hardware. If you are curious about more information about wudfhost.exe and how to fix it, this guide will help you.
What is Wudfhost.exe on Windows 10?
The wudfhost.exe process (or, to give it its full name, the Windows User-Mode Driver Framework Host process) is one of the most important system processes that runs on your Windows PC.
It works as part of a number of libraries and components that provide the necessary structure for: Windows hardware drivers to communicate with your low-level hardware components, including your graphics card, system memory, and CPU. It provides secure access to those components without compromising your system security.
It also provides the ability for Windows to communicate with portable devices, such as USB devices such as your keyboard or webcam. Wudfhost.exe loads some of these drivers on its own using low-privileged non-administrator access, allowing secure access to these hardware components by Windows and third-party apps and services.
Without wudfhost.exe, your PC drivers won’t work. No drivers, no hardware access. No hardware access, no working PC. For this reason alone, wudfhost.exe is critical to keep your Windows PC running. If it stops unexpectedly, your PC may crash, causing a Blue Screen of Death error, such as a stop code critical process died BSOD.
Is wudfhost.exe safe?
As an essential Windows process, the genuine wudfhost.exe process is completely safe to run. Any attempt to “hijack” it or replace it with another process is unlikely. After all, processes like wudfhost.exe are necessary for the basic functioning of your PC and are usually well protected by Windows itself.
However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. For example, a kernel security check error BSOD can occur if the wudfhost.exe process is corrupted or infected with malware. You can usually check this with Microsoft Defender or another third-party antivirus or antimalware solution.
If you want to make absolutely sure that the wudfhost.exe process can run safely (and you’ve already scanned your PC for malware), you can check whether the process is real or not with the Task Manager, using the steps in one of the sections below.
Is it safe to stop or disable the Wudfhost.exe process?
If you decide to manually end the wudfhost.exe process in the Task Manager, it will not result in a Blue Screen of Death, but it may cause system instability. This is a critical system process, so any attempt to end the process will prevent Windows’ drivers from loading and could crash your PC at any time.
However, it is more likely that Windows will simply reload the process. You can stop it, but only briefly. Windows needs wufhost.exe to load drivers and communicate with components, so while you can pause and stop the process briefly in the Task Manager, you can’t disable it completely.
To be clear, this means you can’t and absolutely shouldn’t try to disable the wudfhost.exe process in the long run as it will cause Windows to crash and stop working. The only exception, however rare, is when another process masquerades as this process when it is not the real process.
Some types of known malware try to pretend to be important processes that need to be run in plain sight. This is becoming rarer on a Windows 10 PC, but don’t rule out the possibility and use the steps below to check if this is the case.
Troubleshoot Wudfhost.exe with high CPU and other system resources
If you see Wudfhost.exe with high CPU, memory, or other system resource usage issues, it could be a sign of a problem with your PC that you need to fix.
The Windows User-Mode Driver Framework Host process should not require many resources to run. In most cases, it should only log resource usage when you connect a device (e.g. to a USB port) or when an app or service accesses certain hardware components.
However, if a particular app or service accesses your hardware frequently or excessively, it can result in a high spike in CPU or memory usage in the Task Manager. It can also be caused by outdated or misconfigured hardware drivers themselves as the wudfhost.exe process loads drivers to allow Windows to communicate with your hardware.
Before making any changes to your system, consider whether you installed or connected new hardware just before the problem started. If so, remove the component (where possible) to see if the problem is caused by that hardware itself.
If this is not the cause, you should check all your device drivers for updates using Windows Update and the device manufacturer’s websites. You can take this opportunity to check for new system updates as they may come with additional stability fixes.
Checking for system and driver updates with Windows Update
- To check for available Windows system and driver updates, right-click the Start menu and select: Settings†
- In the Settings menu, select Update & Security † Windows Update† Windows should automatically check for possible system or driver updates, but if not, select Check for updates scan automatically. Select Install updates to install available updates if it doesn’t start automatically.
- Let Windows download and install any necessary updates. Once the process is complete, restart your PC to load the new drivers. You can do this quickly by right-clicking the Start menu and Exit or Sign Out † Restarting†
Check for manufacturer driver updates
Not all driver updates are immediately made available through the Windows Update system. New drivers usually appear several months after their release, allowing Microsoft to test driver stability before releasing a wider release.
However, this limits your ability to install the latest drivers for advanced hardware. For example, if you installed a brand new graphics card, you may need to upgrade your drivers to support new games and see stability improvements.
For example, if you have an NVIDIA graphics card, you will need to update your NVIDIA drivers by visiting the NVIDIA website, manually downloading the latest driver and installing it on your PC.
This applies to any recent hardware you’ve installed, including USB-connected devices such as webcams, graphics tablets, and more. The manufacturer-released driver may be the same as the Windows Update version, but if it is newer, it may provide stability improvements to avoid wudfhost.exe high CPU and RAM issues.
Checking if Wudfhost.exe is Legitimate
Although it is becoming rarer, some malware will attempt to infect (or use instead of) genuine processes such as wudfhost.exe. If you are wondering if the running wudfhost.exe process is the legitimate system process after: check for malwareyou can trace the location of the file using the Task Manager.
- To do this, open the Task Manager by right-clicking the Start menu (or taskbar) and task management from the context menu.
- In the task management window, select the Details tab and look for the wudfhost.exe process listed (if it is currently running). Once you find it, right click on the process and select Open file location†
- Windows opens File Explorer to the location of the active wudfhost.exe process. You should find the file in the C:\Windows\System32 folder on your PC. If it’s not in this location, the file isn’t real.
If the running wudfhost.exe process isn’t in the System32 folder, that’s a problem, but don’t panic just yet. If you can’t remove the malware and assuming you have a system backup for your critical files, you may need to: Restore Windows to an earlier point to remove the malware and continue safely with your PC.
If you don’t have a restore point and you can’t remove the malware, you should consider wiping and reinstalling Windows to ensure the infection is removed. This allows you to use Windows again without compromising your files and security.
Better understand the Windows operating system
As this guide shows, don’t panic if you see the Windows User-Mode Driver Framework Host process (wudfhost.exe) running. It is one of the most important processes on Windows, being so critical, alongside ntosknrl.exe, that without it running, your Windows PC simply wouldn’t work.
If you are having problems with wudfhost.exe or any other system files, don’t forget to follow some general troubleshooting steps. You can quickly restore your system files if you experience problems, or if the problem is more serious, you may need to consider a Windows factory reseterase your files and restore them to their default configuration.