On a server running Windows 2003 Standard edition, the System process is sitting at 0-1% CPU usage, but under Task manager and Process Explorer it shows the number of handles at over 900,000 and is continuing to increase.

The server is running IIS and SQL Server, which are the primary duties of the server. McAfee anti-virus is also installed, and that's about it. This is a new server we're trying to bring up, very little has happened to it after being built.

What could cause this? What additional details would be relevant?

  • Greg's answer should tell you what process but my nickel is on McAfee regardless of what process is leaking handles. The first thing I'd do is remove mcAfee and see if the problem goes away.
    – Jim B
    Dec 10, 2009 at 3:38

1 Answer 1


Add the Handles column (on the Process Performance tab) in process explorer, then sort by that column to identify the offending component.

You can also select View > Show Lower Pane, and View > Lower Pane View > Handles to check out where the handles are and the type of handle (registry, disk, etc).

  • That helped us identify where the problem was, Thank you! The USB sound card: Creative Sound Blaster X-FI Model SB1100 was the root of the problem. The handles this morning were up to 1.5 million, and the growing stopped as soon as we disabled the sound card.
    – mlusby
    Dec 10, 2009 at 17:10

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