Running two copies of the same application on your PC can be helpful. Maybe you have multiple accounts for a chat application that you want to use at the same time, or need to test something on two different profiles at the same time.
For those cases where a single copy of the application cannot be run, there are several options that allow you to run multiple instances of the same program in Windows. Here’s what you can do to “clone” an app on your PC.
1. How to Run the Same App Twice on Windows: Basic Solution
There’s a useful trick that doesn’t run completely standalone versions of a program, but it might be all you need. To open a second window of some open apps, just hold Change and click the icon on your taskbar.
For programs like Word, Notepad, File Explorer, and Chrome, this opens a second window with a blank document. You can work in that instance of the app separately from any other instances you have open.
However, this won’t work with all apps. You cannot run two Discord windows by holding Change, for example – doing so will not work. To run the same program twice for apps that don’t support the above method, see other solutions below.
2. How to run multiple instances of a program as different users
When you open an application in Windows, the operating system creates a new process for that program in your user account. If you have multiple users on your system, you can therefore create new instances of the same program under a different user.
You can observe this for yourself by opening Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), click More details if necessary, and see Details navigation. The account name column contains the user who started each process.
Of course, switching between user accounts all the time to use two copies of an application would be tedious. However, there is a better way: you can choose to run a certain program as a different user while still logged in to your existing account.
If you don’t already have at least one other user on your computer, you can create a new local Windows account that’s just a dummy profile. The easiest way to do this is by opening Setting app, then go to Accounts > Family and other users > Add someone else to this PC.
When you are prompted to enter the person’s email address, click I don’t have this person’s login information at the bottom instead. You don’t need to use a Microsoft account to sign in, so click Add users without a Microsoft account at the bottom of the next table.
Set a username and password for the account. We recommend making both easy to type (but don’t use weak passwords!) If you plan to use this function often. If you do not set a password, the ability to run another instance of the program under this account will not work.
For best results, you should also set the new account as an administrator. Otherwise, it will only be able to open the software that you have installed to all users. You’ll see an error message if the standard account tries to open an app that was only installed for another account.
Clone a Windows application in another account
Now that you have two accounts, you can run programs under whichever account you choose. When you launch a program as usual, it opens in your account by default. To launch it as a second user, search for it using the Start menu. Right-click the application’s name, then select Open file location to open its executable in File Explorer.
Now, keep Change while you right click on the program’s icon. This will open a context menu with more options than usual. Click Run as another user in the menu and you’ll see a login box asking you to sign in with another account. Enter the credentials for the account you just created and the app will launch a second instance for that user.
This also works for application icons that are already on your taskbar. Organization Change while right clicking on the name of the application to open a similar menu. If this doesn’t work, right click on the icon once, then hold Change and right-click the application name again on the menu that appears.
If you see an error that says Windows cannot access the specified device, path or filethen the user account you selected doesn’t have permission to open the app. Chances are, you’re trying to use a standard account to open a program that is installed only for your primary user account. Try promoting the sub account to admin and do this again. If you don’t want to do that, see if you can reinstall the program and make it available to all users.
This method is not perfect. Sometimes you need to run an app as a secondary user, before opening it with your regular account, in order for it to properly launch two instances. Not all applications allow you to run two instances at the same time. And this doesn’t do anything for the Store app.
So you should try running two instances of a program, but that may not work depending on the application.
3. How to install two versions of the same software with Sandboxie
As it turns out, sandboxing software works perfectly to create a clone of an application on your system. Windows has a built-in sandbox that you can use for this purpose, but Sandboxie is even easier. It allows you to run any program in a special window separate from the rest of your computer.
This is a great way to check for potentially unsafe downloads in a controlled environment, but also allows you to run multiple instances of an application.
Start by downloading Sandboxie Plus (latest version after the original finished development) and run through the installation process. Once done, you will see Run sandbox when you right-click a program in File Explorer, as long as you enabled this option during installation.
Like before, you’ll likely have to right-click an app’s entry in the Start menu and select Open file location to show it in File Explorer then right click on the app there and select Run sandbox.
A sandboxed program shows up on your taskbar like any other, but you’ll see a yellow border around it when you hover your mouse over the window borders. Note that anything you create in the sandbox will be destroyed when you close it, so be sure to save any important files from the mirroring application to your computer so you don’t lose them.
You can create multiple sandboxes, in addition to the default sandbox, to run several instances of a program. And it’s not limited to just running software that’s already on your computer; you can install software inside sandbox to run it from fresh state.
Sandboxie is a powerful utility with many different uses, but it takes a bit of practice to learn properly. Check out Sandboxie’s help page if you’d like to learn more.
4. Use a browser application to run multiple versions of software
Since 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 can use Discord’s desktop app for one account, then open Discord in your browser to sign in to another account.
If you use this method often, incognito or private windows are even more useful. These windows provide a “clean” browser window that doesn’t keep any logins or other identifying information. As a result, you can use private windows to sign in to multiple accounts at once for services like Facebook, Gmail, or web versions of apps like Skype. You also won’t have to sign out of your main account.
Remember that when you close the incognito window, your browser will destroy everything from that session. A better option for accounts you use frequently is Google Chrome’s included profile switcher. This allows you to open a new Chrome window in a different user account, making it easy to switch between some of the profiles you use often.
5. Try built-in app boxes and options to clone apps
Don’t forget that many software already have the option to sign in to multiple accounts, so you may not need to run multiple instances of the application.
For example, Slack lets you switch between multiple workspaces with its switcher on the left side. Telegram’s desktop app has the option to add other accounts and switch between them.
If so far nothing has worked for a particular app you use, a widget that allows you to access multiple accounts in one place is the way to go. Try services like Franz, Stack, or Rambox that allow you to run multiple productivity apps side-by-side.
It’s easy to add multiple accounts per app using these utilities. Most of these tools charge for the full feature set, but it’s worth it if you’re juggling multiple accounts.
Duplicating two versions of the same software? No problem!
While it may seem impossible at first, with these tools and methods, you have many options for running several instances of a desktop program. Some work a little more than others, but one of these will work for almost any application. Now, you don’t have to do anything too inconvenient, such as constantly logging in and out of your account.
Similar to this, did you know that you can go deeper and even run multiple operating systems on a single computer?
Dual Boot vs Virtual Machine: Which is Right for You?
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