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The correct ways to shut down your Windows based computer

Doing computer repair, I see allot of different issues. But there is one problem I am seeing over and over again, start up corruption. This most commonly occurs when the computer is not turned off properly. And it appears that laptops are more prone to this issue than desktops are. So here's how to properly shutdown your Windows based computer.

Which power button do you use to shut down your computer?

Logic dictates that if you use a button to turn on a device you should also use it to turn it off (button on / button off). You use a button to turn on and off your TV, audio / video components and smartphone. But this is not necessarily the case when it comes to your computer. It is always recommended that you allow the operating system close down all applications and turn the computer off itself.

Using the Start menu / Start screen to shut down Windows

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed how many people don't use this method. It's mainly laptop users who just instinctively reach for the power button. But if you don't watch how long you hold the power button down, you could perform a hardware shutdown. It's just simpler and recommended to use the shut down button on the Start menu / Start screen.

Windows Vista

Shut down button location in Windows Vista
Start button > Power button > Shut down

Windows 7

Shut down button location in Windows 7
Start button > Shut down

Windows 8

Sign out button location in Windows 8
1. Start screen > Sign out
Shut down button location in Windows 8
2. Sign in screen > Power button > Shut down

Windows 8.1

Shut down button location in Windows 8.1
Start screen > Power button > Shut down

Or

Power users shut down button location in Windows 8.1
Power users menu (Windows logo key + X) > Shutdown or sign out > Shut down

Using the power button on the computer to shut down Windows

This method is acceptable for turning off your computer, as it performs the same shutdown command as the shut down button on the Start menu / Start screen. But you have to check and make sure that the power options inside the operating system are configured to shut down the system when the power button is pressed.

Power button options inside of Windows 8.1
Power button options inside of Windows 8.1

The power button can be configured to put the system into sleep or hibernate. And if your system loses power while it's asleep, you will get an error when you restart it. This happens quite often with laptops when they are not using the ac adapter the battery runs out.

Using the power button on the computer to force it to shut down

So how do you turn off computer when it freezes up and you don't have a reset button? This is where the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) specification comes into play. This spec has been built into every computer for well over a decade now. It mandates that when the power button is held down for 10 seconds or more the system performs a hard shutdown, turning off power to all components. This will most likely cause an error upon restart.

How to fix a computer that cannot wake up from sleep or standby mode

Doing computer repair, I fix a wide range of problems. One problem that I am seeing more and more often are systems that go into sleep / standby mode and cannot come out of it. The cause varies from computer to computer, but the fix is usually a change in the software and/or hardware settings. Here's a couple of ways to fix a computer that goes to sleep / standby and won't wake up.

Your computer uses a standard for power management called Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI). There are six (6) different 'sleep' states that your computer can use. The following is a portion of the Wikipedia article on ACPI.

The ACPI specification defines the following four Global "Gx" states and six Sleep "Sx" states for an ACPI-compliant computer-system:

  • G0 (S0): Working. "Awaymode" is a subset of S0, where monitor is off but background tasks are running.
  • G1, Sleeping subdivides into the four states S1 through S4:
    • S1: All processor caches are flushed, and the CPU(s) stops executing instructions. Power to the CPU(s) and RAM is maintained; devices that do not indicate they must remain on may be powered down.
    • S2: CPU powered off. Dirty cache is flushed to RAM.
    • S3: Commonly referred to as Standby, Sleep, or Suspend to RAM (STR). RAM remains powered
    • S4: Hibernation or Suspend to Disk. All content of main memory is saved to non-volatile memory such as a hard drive, and is powered down.
  • G2 (S5), Soft Off: G2/S5 is almost the same as G3 Mechanical Off, except that the PSU still supplies power, at a minimum, to the power button to allow return to S0. A full reboot is required. No previous content is retained. Other components may remain powered so the computer can "wake" on input from the keyboard, clock, modem, LAN, or USB device.
  • G3, Mechanical Off: The computer's power has been totally removed via a mechanical switch (as on the rear of a PSU). The power cord can be removed and the system is safe for disassembly (typically, only the real-time clock continues to run - using its own small battery).

Changing the power management options in the operating system

General power options in Windows 8
General power options in Windows 8

Sometimes just changing the software settings in the operating system power options will fix the issue. Access to the power options in Windows can be done thru the Control Panel. Depending on your version and view by settings, you may or may not see a power option link. In that case, look for power options under the hardware category.

Editing advanced power settings in Windows 8
Editing advanced power settings in Windows 8

Once there, create a new plan or modify an existing plan, changing the advanced settings as needed.

Advanced power option settings in Windows 8
Advanced power option settings in Windows 8

You can also disable S4 hibernation and make it unavailable really quick and easy using an administrator command prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows Vista and Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8
How to disable Windows hibernation

Changing power management options in the BIOS

Power management settings in a typical computer BIOS
Power management settings in a typical computer BIOS

If changing the operating systems power options does not fix the problem, you can try changing the APCI setting to the computers Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). To access the BIOS, you will need to do so at the time the computer boots up. When the computer starts up, it usually displays a 'splash' screen with the manufacture's name and logo. It is on this screen you usually see something like 'Press F2 or Del or F10 for setup' (it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer). The 'splash' screen may only appear for a second or two and may take a few reboots to get into the BIOS. Once there, you need to look for Power Management Options. There you will find the different ACPI standby states.

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