BOOT CAMP 563 (11/02/09)

Startup and Shutdown Problems, part 5


It's all very well getting your PC to boot into a useable state in a minute or so, but what can you do about a Windows computer that takes an age to shut down or just stubbornly refuses to switch off?


Shutdown problems are nowhere near as annoying as a slow start up so they tend to be ignored or tolerated but the good news is that they're usually fairly easy to fix, and Windows Vista and W7 tend to suffer much less than XP.


Much of the time it's due to a programs or background services hanging and this can sometimes happen if you exit a program when the computer is really busy, or you have a lot of other programs running. The easy way to avoid it happening it to limit the number of programs you have running at any one time. When you close a program glance at the hard disc activity light and if it's on continuously wait a few moments for it to stop blinking, before exiting the program.


When your computer dawdles or hangs every time that you shut it down there is a simple way to find out what's gumming up the works. Open Task Manager and on both XP and Vista all you have to do is press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and select the Applications tab (in Vista you have to select Task Manager first). The list should be empty but if a program is still running, and it's the same one every time then that's almost certainly the root cause of your shutdown problem. You might find a solution on the Support page of the program manufacturer's website. Otherwise try googling the program's name and the word shutdown to see if anyone else has had the same problem. Failing that try removing and reinstalling the program. 


If the Applications list is clear the problem may be due to a frozen or running Process or Service. In Task Manager click the Performance tab; with nothing running the CPU Usage graph should be idling at between 2 and 5 percent, with occasional spikes of between 10 and 20 percent. If it is any higher then something is still chugging away behind the scenes. Click the Processes tab, check the 'Show processes from all users' box and watch the numbers in the CPU column to see what's responsible. You may be able to determine the guilty part from the name of the process, otherwise ask Google.


Windows Vista has an extra tab in Task Manager called Services and this is worth investigating if you can't find anything untoward on the Processes tab. This time we're interested in the Status column; click the column header to list all Running Services at the top. The trick is stop each Service in turn by right clicking on it, and try a shutdown. Once again, if you find one that's causing trouble google the name to find out what it does and take the appropriate action to remove it or find a remedy.


We'll finish off with a few tweaks that can help reduce the shutdown time - see also this week's Top Tip. Two of them involve editing the Windows XP Registry, so please, only attempt them if you know what you are doing, and always set a System Restore point before you start tinkering.


The first one is easy; switch off the Windows shutdown jingle, which delays shutdown for a good five or six seconds - especially in XP. Go to Start > Control Panel > Sounds and select the Sounds tab. Scroll down the list, highlight Exit Windows and in the Sounds drop down menu select (None) - it should be at the top of the list. Click Apply and close the dialogue boxes.


The next two tips are for Windows XP only and involve editing Registry commands that decide how long Windows waits for programs and processes to close, before they are automatically terminated. The default value is quite conservative, up to 20 seconds and reducing the time can make quite a difference. By the way, if you use these tip make sure you close down all running programs before you exit Windows, if you don't programs may be forced to close before they have the chance to warn you to save your data.


Go to Run or Search on the Start menu and type 'regedit'. Navigate your way to HKEY CURRENT USER\Control Panel\Desktop. In the right-hand panel scroll down the list and right click on 'HungAppTimeout', select Modify and change the Value Data to 1000. Further down the list you will find

'WaitToKillAppTimeout'. Once again select Modify and this time change the Value Data to 2000.


The last change is to the Registry key: HKEY LOCAL MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control. This time you are looking for 'WaitToKillServiceTimeout' and the new Value is 2000. Close Regedit and reboot and the change will take effect the next time you close down the machine.


Next Week - Introducing Windows 7





Central Processor Unit - the main microprocessor chip in a PC



Registry Editor - utility supplied with Windows for opening and editing Registry system files



Windows utility that provides information about running applications and general performance



Here's a quick and simple to use way to shut down any XP or Vista computer with a single click. Right-click on an empty part of the desktop and select New > Shortcut. In the 'Type the location' box enter the following commands: shutdown -s -f -t 03. Click Next, give the shortcut a name, or use the default and click Finish. It's now ready to use, so give it a try.


In case you are wondering what it all means, 'shutdown -s' launches the Windows shutdown.exe program, this is followed by two 'switches'. The first one, -f means force shutdown and closes any running applications without warning and -t 03 is a time delay of 3 seconds, feel free to change it but 3 seconds is about right for most users.


Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at



(c) R. Maybury 2009, 2101


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