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Jan's Working with Windows:

   Shut Down

While recent versions of Windows are even more forgiving of mistakes than previous versions, it is still quite possible to destroy your hard work, without much effort. One error that is common to newcomers is turning off the computer without saving your documents and closing the applications. That power switch can be dangerous to your work!

This section will show you how to shut down the computer correctly. The directions are for a keyboard method (without using the mouse). These keyboard skills are actually quite useful at those times when your mouse decides to take a vacation from reality.

Options for quitting what you are doing

Menu: Shut down (Windows Vista)Recent versions of Windows have several choices besides just turning off the computer. Which choices you see will depend on the version of Windows and on the particular computer, especially for laptops and tablets.

Switch user - Lets you switch to a different user account without closing down the open programs. The computer is, of course, left turned on. When you switch back to the original user, all of the programs appear just the way they were before you switched users.

Log off - Leaves the computer on but closes any open programs and returns you to the logon screen. This leaves the computer ready for the next person and also keeps the computer awake for the technical staff to manage from afar.

Lock - Lets you keep others from using your computer while it is still on. You must re-enter your password to unlock the computer.

Restart - Closes documents and applications and shuts down the computer, but immediately restarts it. This is useful when installing software that requires a restart to finish the installation.

Icon: TipRestart to fix a glitch: A restart can often fix a computer that is behaving oddly. Sometimes a restart is not enough rest/cool down. You might need to shut down the computer and let it sit there and cool off for a half hour or so. If a long rest cures a problem for a while, you need to figure out what is wrong before it gets worse and worse! A dead fan inside the case, an accumulation of dust in there, and a dying power supply are prime suspects.

Shut down - Closes all your programs and turns off the computer. Most programs (but not all!) will prompt you to save any unsaved documents as part of the shut down process.

Install updates and shut down - When one or more updates have been downloaded but not installed yet, the next time you shut down or restart the computer, the update(s) will be installed before the computer is shut down.  How long the installation will take depends on the size and complexity of the updates. It can add several minutes to the shut down process AND to the next start up. You may or may not see a message about the installation during shut down. You should see a screen tip about a successful installation when you start up again. But look around quickly! Screen tips fade away after a few seconds.

Low-Power Modes

When you are not going to work for a while, you can save electricity or battery charge by putting the computer into a low-power mode. This is especially useful for laptops and tablets that are running on battery power.

Which choices you have will depend on your version of Windows and on what modes your computer can use. The modes are different in how fast the computer returns to normal and in what happens if power is lost while in the low power state.

Sleep/Stand by - Saves your work to memory and puts the computer into a low-power state. If the computer loses power while asleep, the changes saved only to memory are lost. Waking up from Sleep or Stand By mode is quick.

Hibernate - Saves your work to memory and to the hard disk or solid state drive and then puts the computer into a lower-power state than Stand by does. If the computer loses power while in hibernate mode, your recent work is not lost. Waking up from Hibernation is slower than from Sleep/Stand By. Hibernation creates more 'saves' which wears out a solid state drive somewhat faster.

Icon: Windows Vista Hybrid Sleep - In Windows Vista on some computers, sleep combines features of stand by and hibernate. Open documents are saved to memory and to the hard disk.

Icon Step-by-Step 

Step-by-Step: Shut Down

 Icon Step-by-Step

FIRST: Read ALL the directions below carefully.  Do not practice shutting down your computer until you thoroughly understand all your choices. You can print the directions or make notes if you wish.

Icon: Windows 8 Icon: Windows 8.1 Separate directions for Win8 and Win8.1 below

Icon: WinXP Icon: Windows Vista Icon: Windows 7 WinXP, Vista, Win7: Keyboard method

  1. Open Start menu:
    Icon: Keyboard While holding down the CTRL key (on the bottom left of your keyboard or below the ENTER key), press the ESC key at the top left of the keyboard.


    Icon: Keyboard Press the key with the Windows logo Key: Windows logo or Key: Windows (Win7) or Key: Windows (Win8), if your keyboard has one.

    The Start menu pops up. The Start menu on your machine may look a little different.

    Menu: Start > Turn off computer (WinXP) Menu: Start (Windows Vista) Menu: Start (cropped) Win7
    Icon: WinXP WinXP  Icon: Windows Vista Windows Vista Icon: Windows 7Windows 7 

    TipUnderscores in menus: Once a menu is open, if you see an underscored letter, typing the letter will run the command, just like clicking on it with the mouse. If you open the menu with the mouse, the underscores do not show on a menu. But the keyboard shortcuts still work, if you remember what letter to type.

  2. Open a list of options:
    Icon: WinXP WinXP:
    • Dialog: Turn off computer (WinXP)Press the letter U key on the keyboard.

      The Shut Down Windows dialog box appears with some choices.

      TipThe choices in this dialog will vary, depending on your hardware and exact version of Windows.  

    Icon: Windows Vista Icon: Windows 7 Vista, Windows 7:

    • Press the right arrow key until a menu of choices opens.

      Menu: Start - shut down list (Win7) Menu: Start - Windows Vista

      (Yes, it might be easier to get there with the mouse. We are practicing keyboard methods right now!)

    Tip Icon: Windows Vista Icon: Windows 7 Vista, Win7: Icons on the Power button
    By default, the power button on the Start menu in Windows Vista puts the computer into Sleep mode. In Windows 7 the default is Shut Down. You can change that in the Power Options dialog on the Control Panel. The button has a different icon on it for each of the settings possible:

    Button: Sleep (Windows Vista) Sleep
    Button: Power - Shut Down (Vista) Shut down
    Button: Power - Install Update (Vista) Install updates and then shut down - Shows only when an update requires a restart to complete the installation. The shut down and start up processes may take a LOT longer than usual.

  3. Select a shut down option:

    Icon: WinXP Icon: Windows Vista WinXP, Vista: Press the letter U on the keyboard.

    Icon: Windows 7 Windows 7: Press the left arrow key to return to the Shut Down button. Then press Enter.

Icon: Windows 8 Icon: Windows 8.1 Win8, Win 8.1: Shut Down Dialog

Charms to shut down Windows 8Charms panel (Win8)Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 do not have a Start Menu. But there are several methods to get to the Shut Down command.

Method 1: Charms Bar
Open the Charms bar with one of the following methods:

  • Swipe from the right
  • Point with the mouse to the top right or bottom right corner of the screen.
  • Icon: Keyboard Key Combo: Windows key Key: Windows + C.

The Charms bar appears.

Select Settings > Power > Shut Down or Restart or Sleep.

Method 2: Icon: Keyboard Keyboard
In Desktop view minimize all programs so that no window is active (Click at the far right of the Taskbar).

Use the key combo ALT + F4.
An old-style shutdown dialog appears with a drop list of choices.

Dialog: Shut Down (Win8)

Right Click Menu: Shut Down (Win8.1)Method 3: Icon: Windows 8.1 Win 8.1: Right Click Menu
In Desktop view, Icon: Right click right click on the Windows button on the Taskbar. A context menu appears.
Icon: Left click Click on Shut down or sign out and then on a choice, Sign out, Sleep, Shut Down, or Restart.

Power menu: Shut down (Win8.1 Update)Method 4: Icon: Windows 8.1 Win 8.1 Update:
On the Start Screen at the top right, click the Power button to get the menu and select Shut down.


After you choose Shut Down, you must wait awhile for Windows to shut down all the open applications and background processes and then turn itself off. Not all of these processes have buttons on the Taskbar, so you may not even know that they are running. You will be prompted to save any documents that have not been saved yet.

 Shut Down Screen (WinXP) Shut Down screen (Windows Vista)Shutdown screen - Windows 7

Shut down - list of open programs that must be closed firstYou may eventually see a screen that says something about waiting while the computer shuts down or else a screen listing the open programs that must be closed first. Most recent computers will automatically go ahead and turn the power off once all the processes are shut down.

Icon: WarningWait 30 seconds and then turn on the computer.
The wait time is to give the hard drive time to stop spinning. You can fatally damage the hard drive by turning the computer back on too quickly.

You probably already knew what was covered in Start Up and Shut Down, but now we can be sure that you are ready to begin the rest of the lessons. You will need the skills and information they provide to do the Review Questions and the Exercises at the end.