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What’s smss.exe (Windows Session Manager)? Is it safe or a virus?

You might guess that this smss sends SMS messages to phones from your Windows PC, but you'd be guessing wrong... Actually this exe has nothing to do with SMS, but it's still an important part of the Windows OS.

Our cybersecurity team members here in Austin, Texas at SpyShelter labs found all our PCs has this important executable. But, if it isn't sending SMS messages, then what on earth does this .exe do for you?

Smss.exe, or Session Manager Subsystem, is a critical system process in Microsoft Windows operating systems that is responsible for handling user sessions. It plays a fundamental role during the startup phase of the computer, taking part in the initialization of the system environment, setting up system variables, and starting other core processes like winlogon.exe (which manages the login and logout processes) and csrss.exe (Client/Server Runtime Subsystem). Its operation is essential for the stability and security of the system, and it should not be terminated manually as it could lead to system instability or a crash.

(Researched by Jon @ SpyShelter Labs)

Executable Processes List

More about smss.exe on WINDOWS

Who makes smss.exe (Windows Session Manager)?

We’ve found Microsoft Windows Publisher should be the publisher of smss.exe.

How do we know? Our SpyShelter cybersecurity labs focuses on monitoring different types of Windows PC executables and their behaviors for our popular SpyShelter Antispyware software. Learn more about us, and how our cybersecurity team studies Windows PC executables/processes.

What does it mean if someone is the publisher of a PC .exe (executable or process)?

The publisher of an executable is the entity responsible for its distribution and authenticity. Most processes/executables on your PC should be signed. The signature on the executable should have been verified through a third party whose job it is to make sure the entity is who it says it is. Find an unsigned executable? You should consider scanning any completely unsigned .exe on your PC.

Is smss.exe safe or a virus?

Below are 4 simple steps you can take to see if the smss.exe process is safe or malware.

  1. Scan the executable with Microsoft's built-in tech
  2. Find smss.exe's publisher
  3. Search the executable's hash with VirusTotal
  4. Monitor the executable's behavior
Last updated: February 3, 2024

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Why should you trust us?

Our team at SpyShelter has been studying Windows PC executables for over 15 years, to help fight against spyware, malware, and other threats. SpyShelter has been featured in publications like The Register, PC Magazine, and many others. Now we’re working to share free, actionable, and easy to understand information about Windows executables (processes) with the world, to help as many people as possible keep their devices safe. Learn more about us on our "About SpyShelter” page.

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