Why you cannot launch multiple instances of Windows apps the usual way

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 14, 2015

I'm working on a 24" screen and like to display two program windows side by side most of the time.

That's excellent when writing articles as it allows me to have WordPress open in one and another site that I use for reference in another, and also great for research and other purposes.

It is easy enough to open instances of Windows programs, as you can double-click on any icon in the Windows Taskbar or Start Menu to do so, or, if you prefer that, hold down Shift and left-click on the icon instead.

While some programs prevent this from happening, others such as web browsers or email programs support this.

There are other ways to start new instances of a program that is already running, for instance by starting a new instance of it from its own interface if the option is included. This is supported by all web browsers for instance.

If you try to run these operations on Windows apps, regardless of whether they are designed for Windows 8 or Windows 10, you will notice that they don't work.

A double-click on the Microsoft Edge icon does nothing for example if the browser is already open, and this is the case for all Windows apps currently.

microsoft edge new window

This does not mean that they don't support multiple windows though. It is easy enough to open a new window in Microsoft Edge using the menu for instance, the right-click context menu of links, or the shortcut Ctrl-n.

The Mail app supports multiple windows as well, for instance to display the inbox and a compose window next to each other.

The majority of applications don't support this however. The multi-window functionality of Windows apps is powered by an API that apps need to utilize to make multi-window functionality available.

The API is compatible with Windows 8 and 10, and works on the desktop and for mobile. Apps need to support it to provide multi-window functionality but even when they do, it won't have the same functionality that desktop programs offer in this regard.

This explains why you cannot just double-click an app icon to launch another instance of it as Windows apps handle things in a different manner than programs that run on the operating system.

The main issue here is that the behavior is inconsistent, especially if you don't know about the limitation and wonder why you cannot launch another instance of an application on your Windows system that is already running.

Why you cannot launch multiple instances of Windows apps the usual way
Article Name
Why you cannot launch multiple instances of Windows apps the usual way
Find out why you cannot double-click on apps to run a second instance (window) of them on your Windows 8 or 10 system.

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  1. Consumer = Big Data Product said on September 16, 2015 at 3:16 am

    LOL. there is an option “New inPrivate window” on the screenshot above. are you serious? windows 10 is “known” as a great privacy tool offering great options.
    Linux will come very soon baby..

  2. beergas said on September 16, 2015 at 2:42 am

    Thanks yes annoying and not consistent at all. Some do, some don’t. Not using Edge until can have some anti ads or popup blocker extensions. Not even sure LastPass works with it. Win 10 problems even with a program that can run in two modes. Both run for 15min to hour then one bombs, ditto if run the app twice and pick dif mode in each.
    Chrome still some issues. Usually have to log out of it (google), then relogon in. Most Chrome extensions return ok if have set a google account.
    Careful with those extensions, esp the blockers. They can really confuse Chrome, and if run IE11 same time. Usually works ok together but can lose one or other (LastPass on both can confuse them).. Chrome will offer to save passwords which I let it do for less secure sites or apps.
    More or less Windows 10 ok. Main issues are the Windows 7, 8 carry-overs messing up. Lost my proxy settings today and had to do a quick recovery. Keep those backup images too like free Macrium Reflect. Never know.

  3. Solidstate said on September 15, 2015 at 2:25 am

    Just use middle-click. Double-clicking on an already open application has never worked for me anyways in Windows 8.1. Are you saying it has for you? It just minimizes and then maximizes the window again. Middle-click the icon though and it’ll open up multiple instances if the program supports it.

  4. Doc said on September 15, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Another reason to avoid Modern UI (framework formerly known as “Metro”) apps.

    1. David said on September 15, 2015 at 12:31 am

      Yeah I don’t see the appeal. The apps are mostly very basic versions of desktop counterparts, and you have no control over what version you use, unless you want to update to the latest, least-tested release.

  5. RossN said on September 14, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    To open another program instance, I always right-click the shortcut and click on the program name.

    1. Ben said on September 15, 2015 at 2:13 am

      You can also middle click on the taskbar icon to open a new window as well. Although, I noticed that this does not work with Microsoft Edge, so this might the case with a lot of the metro style apps. Works for every other normal app though!!

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on September 14, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      This won’t work for Windows apps either, at least not the ones I tried.

  6. RottenScoundrel said on September 14, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    As a programmer of some experience, I can assure there are many good reasons not to allow multiple instances of the program to run concurrently. A browser is fluff compared to most other applications. When a program is run in windows, the Registry is bombarded with a myriad of things to set rules for the program. Where to look for what etc.

    Things like databases may no be able to handle two+ versions using the same database. It is called interleaved updates and is a shortcut to trashing a database. Pretty much every program I write I make use of the windows-API Mutex call to allow only a single instance of the application to run.

    So, while it might be nice to have two copies, it is certainly not trivial for the programmers to to allow it. So, let me put this another way, it is bad programming to allow multiple instances of a significant application to run on the same PC, unless of course, one of them is in a VM. :)

    I use two computers and two monitors with a mouse/keyboard switch when I need to two copies of anything running. The switch I use is actually a full KVM but I don’t switch the monitors as it is annoyingly slow. But, the mouse and keyboard are instantaneous.

    1. hirobo2 said on September 15, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      Meanwhile, stuff like MySQL allows you to have tens if not hundreds of simultaneous connections to the db. Not allowing more than one instance of an app to run is either laziness or lack of talent to create a framework that supports such…

  7. 1 said on September 14, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    “A double-click on the Microsoft Edge icon does nothing for example if the browser is already open, and this is the case for all Windows apps currently.”
    Shift-click seems to work with the calculator app.

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