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Every few days, Internet Explorer opens in an odd place on my screen. The culprit is always the same: I have multiple iexplore.exe processes running (usually 4), but no Internet Explorer window is visible.

I think that with the IE8 security model in Windows 7, there is an iexplore.exe process that manages the others somehow, so at most, I should see two iexplore.exe processes when Internet Explorer is open.

Does anyone have any ideas as to why iexplore.exe is either not shutting down correctly, or lauching more processes in the background?

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Does the window that appears randomly have anything in it? Is there anything in the window's Back button history? Does it ever happen soon after you reboot or log on, or does it only happen when you've been logged in for several hours or days? – phenry Oct 15 '09 at 21:03
there are NO Internet Explorer windows visible at all, so I couldn't tell you if anything was in it/them or not. I usually see this behavior after several days, which includes my PC sleeping several times. – Adrian Anttila Oct 15 '09 at 21:50

IE8 has a feature where each tab is running in its own process, so if one page makes it crash, the complete browser doesn't go away. It's called "Lousely Coupled IE" (LCIE) and you can read more about it here.

Basically you have 1 iexplore.exe for the UI and 1 iexplore.exe for each tab.

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But that doesn't explain why he doesn't actually see any IE windows on the screen... – Sasha Chedygov Oct 15 '09 at 20:50
musicfreak is correct, there aren't any visible windows. – Adrian Anttila Oct 15 '09 at 21:51

It could be related to this question where malware was launching the processes. Try running a scan with MBAM, Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware, and see if something turns up.

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I found a similar issue in our environment. I found that sometimes IE windows can hang and the user can close them, but they still remain in the background. Our situation had something to do with IE hang resistance and Tab growth. I have written about it on my blog

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