Adaptive signal processing algorithms derived from LS (least squares) cost functions are known to converge extremely fast and have excellent capabilities to “track” an unknown parameter vector. This paper treats analytically and experimentally the steady-state operation of RLS (recursive least squares) adaptive filters with exponential windows for stationary and nonstationary inputs. A new formula for the “estimation-noise” has been derived involving second- and fourth-order statistics of the filter input as well as the exponential windowing factor and filter length. Furthermore, it is shown that the adaptation process associated with “lag effects” depends solely on the exponential weighting parameter λ. In addition, the calculation of the excess mean square error due to the lag for an assumed Markov channel provides the necessary information about tradeoffs between speed of adaptation and steady-state error. It is also the basis for comparison to the simple LMS algorithm. In a simple case of channel identification, it is shown that the LMS and RLS adaptive filters have the same tracking behavior. Finally, in the last part, we present new RLS restart procedures applied to transversal structures for mitigating the disastrous results of the third source of noise, namely, finite precision arithmetic. Copyright © 1986 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.