Tip of the Week: Why Shutting Down a Computer Takes So Long

There’s a considerable difference between turning off some appliance, like a television or a vacuum cleaner, and turning off your computer. Why does the computer take so long to power down, and is there any way to speed up the process? This tip will explore these subjects, and give you a few ideas as to how to speed up the shutdown process.

Why is Shutdown So Slow?
To fully appreciate why it takes such a relatively long time for a computer to shut down, it helps to examine the process as a whole. Any computer relies on a wide variety of moving parts, so to speak, and there is a level of organization to the shutdown process that protects these many components. A full shutdown allows the RAM to empty itself, the hard drive to wipe its virtual memory, remove all caches and close out all active applications, and finally deactivate the operating system.

If your computer is forced to shut down without the opportunity to go through these processes, or in the middle of some important task, you could easily experience file corruption and errors when you try to start it back up again.

The Steps of a Proper Shutdown
We briefly touched upon the shutdown process above, but it helps to see the complete list of steps (while remembering that, although it isn’t an instantaneous shut down process, it does go pretty fast) to appreciate the lengths that programmers and developers have gone to ensure your computer is protected.

First, upon activation of the shutdown process, any applications that are opened are checked to ensure that their data has been saved. If not, the process is interrupted until the user instructs the computer what to do. The computer then allows all services and programs to shut down and confirm that they have closed, before removing the no-longer-needed program data. Then a log is made of anything unusual for the user to reference if the next startup doesn’t go smoothly, and all users are logged out of the system. Then, the user-level operating system is deactivated, any pending updates are installed, and the machine is finally turned off completely.

Speeding Up Shutdown
Of course, there are a few ways to assist this process in going faster, although most are fairly complex and should only be attempted by an IT professional. One simpler way is to make sure that your programs are all closed out before you begin shutdown, as this streamlines a few of the computer’s initial shutdown procedures. It can also help to not shut down your workstation all the time, but to instead restart it. This helps the computer cleanse itself of extra, unnecessary memory, increasing its speed overall.

For more tips, tricks, and best practices, make sure you make a point of coming back to the Palindrome Consulting blog!

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