What is: Winlogon?

Any Windows user who has ever opened their computer’s Task Manager and navigated to the Processes tab will quite possibly have seen an ongoing process named winlogon.exe.

At first glance, even highly inexperienced Windows users will be able to deduce that, since the name of the process contains the term “win” in it, winlogon.exe is a Windows process and, since the name of the process also contains the term “logon”, it pertains to Windows logon procedures. However, that is not all there is to winlogon.exe. In actuality, the winlogon.exe process can be one of two things – a completely trustworthy Windows process that is crucial for optimum performance, or a virus, Trojan, worm or spyware that has the exact same name as the legitimate winlogon.exe.

The harmless winlogon.exe that is actually crucial to Windows

The winlogon.exe process is a process that starts as soon as Windows powers up and is present on ALL versions of the Windows Operating System – be it Windows XP or Windows 10. The winlogon.exe process that has been manufactured by Microsoft is actually of great use to the Windows Operating System and has quite a few different duties and responsibilities. The legitimate winlogon.exe process is responsible for window station and desktop protection, multiple network provider support, screensaver control, loading of user profiles, assignment of security to user shell, SAS routine dispatching and standard SAS recognition, verification of copies of Windows and user login and logout procedures, among a few other things.

The executable file for the legitimate winlogon.exe process can be found in the C:\Windows\System32 directory and is extremely essential to the Windows Operating System, which is why it is not something to fiddle around with.

The winlogon.exe that almost certainly is a threat

The other winlogon.exe comes in the form of a virus, a Trojan, a worm or spyware and is officially recognized as a threat to the Windows OS under the name W32.Netsky.D@mm. The winlogon.exe that is almost certainly a threat and has more than significant chances of causing harm to your computer is almost always distributed via email. This harmful element infects your computer when you open a hostile attachment attached to one of the emails you receive. This winlogon.exe, in most cases, has its own SMTP engine which it uses to gather your emails after it has infected you and creates and sends copies of itself to your entire address book.

Replicating itself and sending its copies to your address book is not all this malicious winlogon.exe is capable of. This winlogon.exe can also allow attackers to access your computer, record your keystrokes and get their hands on your personal information. This winlogon.exe is a known threat to the Windows Operating System, which is why you need to get rid of it as soon as you detect and identify it. One of the most effective ways to differentiate between the legitimate winlogon.exe file and the winlogon.exe file that is a threat is the fact that the legitimate winlogon.exe is always located in the C:\Windows\System32 directory. If there is a winlogon.exe file located in any directory other than C:\Windows\System32, you need to get rid of it. In addition, you should also treat any winlogon.exe files with no file information as threats. You can use this simple tool by Symantec to get rid of a harmful winlogon.exe file.

If you believe that your computer has been infected by a malicious winlogon.exe file, you can also download Security Task Manager by going here and clicking on the Download Now button and then use it to scan your computer for an illegitimate and potentially harmful winlogon.exe file and remove it.

Kevin Arrows


Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

Expert Tip

What is: Winlogon?

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