Virtual desktops are a window management feature, not a performance feature


I noted some time ago that virtual desktops are a window management feature, not a security feature.

It’s also not a performance feature.

Switching away from a virtual desktop does not do anything to the programs running on that virtual desktop. They take up as much CPU, RAM, and other resources as they normally would if they were switched away from by other means.

Organizing windows into virtual desktops tells the system which windows you would like to see together, and which you would like to be hidden automatically. Programs running on non-current virtual desktops still run as they did before.

You just can’t see them.

Virtual desktops give you a way to organize your work, to remove distractions, and to switch between contexts. They are strictly organizational tools. Aside from being removed from view, the programs continue to run normally. And unless the program has been updated to understand virtual desktops and cloaking, the programs won’t even realize that they’ve been hidden from the user.



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  • Dominic Hopton

    I thought that UWP apps would be suspended when the virtual desktop they were part of became inactive? Similar to when you lock the desktop?

    • Max Strini

      Yes, I’d also thought it was equivalent in this respect to minimizing an app’s windows in desktop mode, or switching away from it in tablet mode. Is this not true anymore? Was it ever true?

      • Zander

        “And unless the program has been updated to understand virtual desktops”

        I would assume UWP knows about virtual desktops

    • GL

      UWP apps do get suspended when they’re not on the active virtual desktop. That’s not a feature of virtual desktop, but a feature of UWP (or UWP lifecycle manager).

  • Antonio Rodríguez

    It can bring some performance improvements for applications which constantly update their windows (at least, if they are well behaved and use RedrawWindow() and WM_PAINT to do that). But the same improvements could come of minimizing them, for example, so this is nothing exclusive of virtual desktops.

  • Ray

    Not a security feature, but they come with something like a boss key, so… a security feature though, in some terms.