Running two copies of the same app on your PC can be helpful. Maybe you have multiple accounts for a chat app that you want to use at the same time, or need to test something on two profiles at once.
For those times when just one running copy of an app won’t do, there are several options that let you run multiple instances of the same program in Windows. Here’s what you can do.
How to Run the Same App Twice on Windows: The Basic Solution
There’s a handy trick that doesn’t run fully independent instances of a program, but it could be all you need. To open a second window of certain open apps, just hold Shift and click on the icon in your taskbar.
For programs like Word, Notepad, File Explorer, and Chrome, this will open a second window with a blank document. You can work in that separately from whatever else you already have open.
However, this won’t work with all apps. You can’t run two Discord windows by holding Shift, for example—doing so will have no effect. To run the same program twice for apps that don’t support the above method, check out the other solutions below.
How to Run Multiple Instances of a Program as Different Users
When you open an app in Windows, the operating system creates a new process of that program under your user account. If you have more than one user on your system, you can thus create new instances of the same program under a different user.
You can observe this yourself by opening the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), clicking More details if needed, and viewing the Details tab. The User name column contains the user who started the process.
Of course, switching between user accounts all the time to use two copies of an app would be tedious. There’s a better way, though: you can choose to run a certain program as a different user, while staying logged into your current account.
If you don’t already have at least a second user on your computer, you can create a new local account that’s just a dummy profile. One way to do this is by opening the Settings app, then going to to Accounts > Family & other users > Add someone else to this PC.
When you’re prompted to enter the person’s email address, click I don’t have this person’s sign-in information at the bottom instead. You don’t need to use a Microsoft account to sign in, so click Add a user without a Microsoft account at the bottom of the next panel.
Set a username and a password for the account. We recommend making both easy to type (but don’t use a weak password!) if you plan to use this often. If you don’t set a password, the ability to run another instance of the program under this account won’t work.
For best results, you should also make the new account an administrator. If you don’t, it will only be able to open software that you have installed for all users. You’ll see an error message if a standard account tries to open an app that’s only installed for another account.
Duplicating a Windows App Under Another Account
Now that you have two accounts, you can run programs under whichever one you choose. When you launch a program as you normally would, it opens under your account by default. To launch it as your second user, search for it using the Start menu. Right-click the name of the app, then choose Open File Location to open its executable in File Explorer.
Now, hold Shift while you right-click on the icon of the program. This will open a context menu with more options than usual. Click Run as different user in the menu and you’ll open a login box asking you to sign in with another account. Enter the login info for the account you just created, and the app will launch a second version under that user.
This also works for app icons already on your taskbar. Hold Shift while right-clicking on the name of the app to open a similar menu. If this doesn’t work, right-click on the icon once, then hold Shift and right-click the app’s name again on the resulting flyout menu.
If you see an error that says Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file, then the user account you chose doesn’t have permission to open the app. Most likely, you’re trying to use a standard account to open a program that’s only installed for your main user account. Try promoting the secondary account to an administrator and doing this again.
This method isn’t perfect. Sometimes, you need to run the app as the secondary user before you open it under your usual account for it to properly launch two versions. Not all apps let you run two instances at once. And this doesn’t do anything for Store apps.
So it’s worth a try to run two instances of one program, but might not work depending on the app.
How to Install Two Versions of the Same Software With Sandboxie
As it turns out, sandboxing software works perfectly for installing the same app twice on your system. Windows has a built-in sandbox you can use for this purpose, but Sandboxie is even easier. It lets you run anything in a special window that’s isolated from the rest of your computer.
This is a great way to test potentially unsafe downloads in a controlled environment, but lets you run multiple versions of an app, too.
Get started by downloading Sandboxie Plus (the latest version after the original ended its development) and running through its installation process. Once you’re done, you’ll see a Run Sandboxed entry when you right-click on a program in File Explorer, as long as you left this option enabled during installation.
Like before, you’ll likely have to right-click an app’s entry in the Start menu and choose Open File Location to show it File Explorer, then right-click on the app there and choose Run Sandboxed.
A program in a sandbox shows up in your taskbar like anything else, but you’ll see a yellow outline around it when you mouse over the window borders. Note that anything you create in the sandbox gets destroyed when you close it, so make sure to save any important files on your computer so you don’t lose them.
You can create multiple sandboxes, beyond the default one, to run several instances of programs. And it’s not limited to just running software that’s already on your computer; you can install software inside a sandbox to run it from a fresh state.
Sandboxie is a powerful utility with a variety of uses, but it can take a bit to learn properly. Have a look at Sandboxie’s help page if you’re interested in learning more.
Use Browser Apps to Run Multiple Software Instances
Because so many apps are now available as web versions, an easily overlooked option for running multiple instances of an account is through your browser. For example, you could use Discord’s desktop app for one account, then open Discord in your browser to sign into another account.
If you use this method often, incognito or private windows are even more useful. These provide a “clean” browser window that doesn’t keep any sign-in or other identifying information. Thus, you can use a private window to sign into multiple accounts at once for services like Facebook, Gmail, or web versions of apps like Skype. You won’t have to sign out of your primary account, either.
Similarly, Google Chrome includes a profile switcher that lets you open Chrome under a different user account, making it easy to switch between a few configurations you often use.
Built-In Options and App Boxes
Don’t forget that a lot of software already has the option to sign into multiple accounts, so you might not need to run more than one instance of the app.
For instance, Slack lets you switch between multiple workspaces with its switcher on the left side. Telegram’s desktop app has the option to add another account and switch between them.
If nothing so far has worked for a particular app you use, then a utility that lets you access multiple accounts in one place is the way to go. Try services like Franz, Stack, or Rambox that let you run many productivity apps side-by-side.
It’s easy to add more than one account for each app. Most of these tools charge for the full feature set, but it’s worth it if you juggle a lot of accounts.
Two Versions of the Same Software: No Problem
While it might seem impossible at first, with these tools and methods you have many options for running several instances of one program. Some are a bit more work than others, but one of these solutions should work for pretty much any app. Now you don’t have to do anything inconvenient, like constantly signing in and out of accounts.
Similar to this, did you know that you can go deeper and even run multiple operating systems on one computer?
Want to run multiple OSes on one machine? Here’s how to decide if a virtual machine or dual-booting is right for you.
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