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audiodg.exe - Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation

Windows Vista uses a new process known as audiodg.exe, which is a legitimate but non-critical component of the audio subsystem. If you check out the process in more detail via Task Manager, you'll find the name expands to the "Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation" process. It's not malware or spyware. It's used by Vista's audio component to handle DSP (Digital Signal Processing) and other duties, as explained below.

According to developer information published by Microsoft, this process was created for two reasons. The first is because the DSP system can make use of 3rd party code, and for internal reasons they're not allowed to use such external code in svchost.exe processes. Such processes are the common method for providing host services under Windows these days, but this particular component had to be split off into a separate binary.

The second reason is that the audiodg.exe code handles DRM (Digital Rights Management) tasks. According to a Microsoft insider, "the DRM system in Vista requires that the audio samples be processed in a protected process, and (for a number of technical reasons that are too obscure to go into) it's not possible for a svchost hosted service to run in a protected process."

Some users have reported excessive CPU usage by this process. Several have said disabling the process produced no negative effects, but immediately resolved the CPU consumption problem. These problems may be due to incorrectly designed applications that use the audio subsystem incorrectly, or a defect in Windows. No further information is available at present.

This process is, so far, specific to Windows Vista. Nothing suggests it's being used under earlier OS releases. Thus, if you run XP or 2000 and see audiodg.exe processes under the Task Manager, it may mean your machine has picked up a piece of malware. In this case you should immediately update your antivirus and anti-spyware package and run a complete scan to determine whether the process is malicious.

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