BOOT CAMP 103
WHEN WINDOWS WON'T GO AWAY…
As if getting Windows to boot up doesn't cause enough
problems, closing it down afterwards can be a real headache for some PC owners.
Faced with a machine that 'hangs' during shut down most users head straight for
the PC's on-off switch but this should be a last resort. Most of the time, if
the machine freezes in the middle of shut down, you'll get away with it but if
the power is cut whilst the PC is in the middle of an operation bad things might
happen. Never switch off if you hear the hard disc drive chattering away; if
you do then critical Windows system files might be corrupted and you could be
even worse off, with a completely dead machine. Needless to say it is better to
shut down your PC in an orderly manner, so this week's Boot Camp is devoted to
what to do when Windows won't go away.
Even the most well behaved PCs hang from time to time.
Usually the worst thing that happens after an aborted shutdown is a brief delay
the next time you switch on whilst ScanDisk runs through a series of checks on
the disc drive, after which Windows loads and shuts down normally again.
However a small percentage of PCs suffer from persistent shut down problems.
It's not something you should have to put up with and most of the time the
solution is fairly simple, usually involving uninstalling a program or changing
a setting, but tracking down the original cause can be time-consuming. Of
course, if the problem began immediately after you installed a new piece of
software or hardware you will know where to start looking – try uninstalling
and then reinstalling it. On the other hand, if shut down has always been
erratic or it started playing up spontaneously you're going to have to do a bit
of detective work.
There is any number of possible causes so it's a process of
elimination. If you have closed all running applications and your PC hangs try
pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete to bring up the Close Program menu to make sure no
frozen programs have been behind. Work your way down the list, highlighting
each item in turn and clicking End Task, then try for a shutdown. You can do
this for any entry except Explorer and System Tray, which cannot be
It's worth checking for a corrupted sound file so go to
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Sounds. Find Exit Windows on the
list and change the setting in the Sound Name field to None, then try shutting
down again. Power management is another trouble spot, open Power Management in
Control Panel and switch the Power Scheme to Always On and the System and
Monitor standby times to Never then see what happens when you shut down.
The next thing to try is to disable all of the programs that
load during start-up. To do that, press and hold the Shift key at switch on
until after Windows has finished loading. Windows 95 machines will boot up in Safe
Mode, Windows 98 loads more or less normally but you'll notice that there are
no programs shown on the taskbar or System Tray. Now shut the PC down, if it
obliges then you know that one of the programs in the start-up group is to
On a Windows 95 PCs open Start Up (Start > Programs) and
remove the programs one by one until normal operation is restored. On Windows
98 PCs go to Run on the Start menu and type 'msconfig', the System
Configuration Utility opens, select the StartUp tab and you'll be presented
with a list of all the programs that load automatically with Windows. Disable
them one by one and each time try a restart. Whilst you are in System
Configuration select the General tab, click the Advanced button and check the
item 'Disable Fast Shutdown', and see if that helps.
System Configuration in Windows 98 has some other useful
tools for editing the Windows system start up routine; two potential sources of
trouble are system.ini and win.ini. Rather than plough through the lists,
uncheck everything (one list at a time and make a note of any previously
unchecked items) and restart. If the problem disappears re-check everything and
work your way through the list, disabling one item at a time.
The complex Windows filing system has been know to cause its
fair share of problems. There's an easy way to find out if this the cause, go
to Control Panel double click the System icon select Performance, the File
System button and the Troubleshooting tab. Put a check in all of the boxes,
click OK, close Control Panel and shut down Windows. If it is successful go
back and uncheck the items one at a time. Unfortunately there's no easy cure if
one of the file parameters is responsible, other than re-installing Windows.
Corrupt Windows device drivers can trigger all sorts of odd
behaviour so if all else has failed so far double click on the System icon in
Control Panel and select the Device Manager tab. Anything listed with an
exclamation mark in a yellow circle next to it is worth investigating. Double
click on the suspect item (or right click and choose Properties) and check the
box marked 'Disable in this hardware profile' and try shutting the PC down.
Don't forget to restore the original setting afterwards and only try it on only
item at a time. If a driver turns out to be the source of the problem use
System Properties to remove it, but before you do make sure you have the
original driver disc to hand.
Next week – PCs and family trees revisited
Special Windows troubleshooting mode using default settings
and a minimum of drivers and resources
Windows utility that checks the integrity of data stored on
a hard disc drive, identifies problems, and where possible, puts them right
Important files that configure Windows during boot-up,
telling the operating system what settings to use, what software is loaded and
the hardware or peripherals attached to the PC
How well do you know your Windows 98 PC? Tucked away inside
your machine is a complete history of its inner workings, charting system
settings and changes to the hardware and software configuration. It's a useful
to have a permanent record of this information, made when your PC is working
normally. There's some interesting facts and figures in amongst the mass of
gobbledegook and if at some stage something goes wrong, it could help you or a
PC savvy friend to track down the problem more easily. To produce such a file
go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System
Information. On the File menu select Export, give the file a name – something
along the lines 'mypc.txt' -- choose a location and click Save. You could print
it out but be warned that it can run to more than 100 pages!