Running more than one instance of a program can be useful, for example if you have multiple Skype accounts.
Most people probably don’t have several accounts for the same service or need to juggle three instances of Word at the same time. However, for those times when just one running copy of an app won’t do, there are several options that let you around the limitation.
Next time you need to run an app in multiple windows, here are a few solutions.
The Basic Solution
There’s one method that isn’t truly running independent instances of a program, but it could be all you need. To open a second window of any open program, just hold Shift and click on its icon in your Taskbar. For programs like Word, Notepad, or Chrome, this will open a second window with a blank document.
However, this won’t work with all apps, including Skype. If you want to run independent processes of those apps, continue on.
Run as a Different User
Whenever 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 and switch between them using the Start Menu, you can create new instances of the same program under a different user.
You can observe this by opening the Task Manager (CTRL + Shift + ESC) 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 Skype would be tedious. There’s a better way, though: you can choose to run a program as a different user than your usual account. If you don’t already have a second user on your computer, go ahead and create a new user account for this. You can do so by opening the Settings app from the Start Menu, then jump to Accounts > Family & other people.
Click Add someone else to this PC. When you’re prompted to enter their 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 dialogue. Set a username (Dummy or something similar is fine) and a password for the account. If you don’t set a password, the next step won’t work.
How to Run Programs Under Another Account
Now that you have two accounts, you can run programs under whichever account you choose. If you open a program from the Start Menu, it opens under your account by default. To launch it as your second user, find it on the Start Menu, right-click, and choose More > Open File Location.
Next, hold Shift while you right-click on the icon of your desired program in the resulting File Explorer window. Click Run as different user in the dialogue and you’ll see a login box asking you to sign in with another account. Enter the login info you just created, and the app will launch under that account instead.
In our testing, we found that using this method to open an app that you already have open just opens a new window under your own account. To get around this, use the Run as a different user command before you open the program normally. When we did this, Skype opened a “please sign in” window first and then opened to our account page when we launched it normally afterwards.
Isolate with Sandboxie
If you don’t want to use the above method, there’s a piece of software made especially for this purpose. Sandboxie is a tool that lets you run anything in an isolated window from the rest of your system. It’s a great way to test potentially unsafe software in a controlled environment, but lets you run multiple versions of an app, too.
Get started by downloading sandboxie 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 the File Explorer. You’ll probably have to right-click an app’s entry in the Start Menu and choose More > Open File Location to find these.
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’re done using it, so make sure to save any important files on your computer so you don’t lose them.
Overall, the Run As method is probably easier for most users. Sandboxie is a powerful utility with a variety of uses, but takes a bit to learn properly. Have a look at the FAQ if you’re interested in learning more.
Sandboxie is a free tool, but after you use it for 30 days it makes you wait a few seconds before you launch a sandboxed program. This isn’t a huge deal if you open an app and leave it open for hours, but it could get in your way if you regularly launch sandboxed apps. A $21/year or $35/lifetime license removes this restriction.