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Shutting down Windows seems like it should be a simple process. You’re just turning your PC off; how hard can it be? Yet there’s more to shutting down than just cutting the power. System processes must end, data must be saved, and unneeded information must be removed from memory.

Usually, this process takes just a few seconds, but the complex series of steps that take place behind the scenes can sometimes trip over itself. The result is a system that never actually shuts down, or takes an extremely long time to do so. Here are the reasons why your Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 PC might not shut down, and how to fix it.

Note that we have previously covered hacks to speed up the Windows 7 shutdown process 3 Ways To Speed Up The Windows 7 Shutdown Process 3 Ways To Speed Up The Windows 7 Shutdown Process One of the key improvements of Windows 7 is its lightning fast start-up. However, one thing which is not so fast is the shutdown process. If you also happen to be looking for ways to... Read More . You might also be interested in learning how to quickly shut down Windows 8 How To Shut Down Windows 8 How To Shut Down Windows 8 Windows 8 brings the biggest changes to the familiar Windows interface since Windows 95. The Shut Down option isn’t where you’d expect to find it – in fact, the entire classic Start menu and Start... Read More .

Software Problems

Programs are a common cause of shutdown issues. If shutting down your system does not even bring up the “Shutting down…” screen and you instead get stuck at the “programs need to close” prompt, you likely have a software problem.

Ideally, Windows will show you a list of programs that need to shut down. Often, they’ll be closed automatically, but sometimes the system will not proceed further. This is usually because you have an open program that needs to save data. Halt the shutdown process by clicking Cancel and then make sure you’ve saved your data in all programs open. Remember to save before shutdown in the future, and presto! Problem solved.

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This doesn’t always work, however. Sometimes a list of programs that need to shut down will appear, but it will be empty, or it will appear only briefly but your PC doesn’t move to the shutdown screen. This is a sign that a program is causing your woes. After attempting to shut down, open Task Manager Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative This might seem contrary to what you read about throughout the Internet, but the Windows Task Manager is fine as it is – it doesn’t need a replacement. You could interpret that as a simple... Read More and take a look at the programs still running, by looking at their memory usage and their description.

Fixing a program once you’ve identified as likely culprit may not be easy. The software may need to be patched, or may need re-installation. You can also try manually terminating the program with Task Manager before shutting down your system. Some trial-and-error may be required to confirm which program is causing shutdown to hang.

Process Problems

Windows closes a number of system processes when it shuts down, packing up data as needed to make sure the system boots cleanly the next time it’s needed. If a process hangs while shutting down, however, you won’t know which; the default “Shutting down…” screen gives no details.

You can change this by opening the Registry Editor (do a Windows search for “regedit”), then navigate to the following directory:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System

Now, in the right-side pane of the window, you may see an entry called VerboseStatus. If you see it, right-click it and then click Modify, and change its value to “1.” If you do not see it, right-click an empty portion of the pane, go to New, and then DWORD (32-bit) Value. Create an entry called VerboseStatus and then set its status to “1.”

verboseshutdown

You will now see a list of processes that are shutting down on the “Shutting down…” screen, which will help you determine what is causing your problem. You may find there’s some kind of Windows Update issue, for example, in which case you might need to re-download a pending update, or install it manually. Other common problems include corrupted hardware drivers and network processes that do not shut down.

Driver Or Operating System Problems

Having completed the registry editing step, you may find that your shutdown screen hangs due to a driver or a process bug you don’t understand or don’t know how to fix. In these situations it’s a good idea to look into updating both Windows and your drivers.

Updating Windows is simple. You should be doing this already, but some individuals turn off Windows Update Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More for various reasons. Do a Windows search for Windows Update. The menu that opens should show you if any updates need to be installed, and if they do, clicking “Install updates” will get the process moving. You may need to restart to install the updates.

Windows Update

Solving a driver problem can be more difficult because most companies do not have an auto-update tool available. Fortunately, IObit offers a tool called Driver Booster Update Windows Drivers For Free With IObit Driver Booster Beta Update Windows Drivers For Free With IObit Driver Booster Beta Without drivers, hardware and software wouldn’t be able to communicate, leaving a system inoperable. Updates to drivers can dramatically improve the stability, speed and features of a computer without any changes to the hardware inside.... Read More that can scan your PC for outdated drivers and update them for you.

Hopefully this step will solve your issue, if another did not already. But if you’re still plagued with a slow or frozen “Shutting down…” screen, read on.

Page File Problems

Windows has a feature called a Page File which essentially works like an extension for your RAM. If your system needs more memory than it has available, the least-used portions of data stored in RAM are moved over to a page file on your hard drive, so more important data can be kept in memory.

Sometimes, clearing the Page File at shutdown is enabled for security reasons. This is because the page file can be a security hole, as the data in it can be retrieved. Clearing the file at shutdown can take some time, however, so it may be the source of your problem.

pagefileshutdown

Open regedit.exe and go to the following directory:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management

Now, have a look at the pane to the right. Find the registry entry named ClearPageFileAtShutdown. If it is set to 1 it is enabled, and may delay the shutdown process. Right-click it, select Modify, and change the value to 0.

Please note that, if you’re using a PC from your place of employment, the page file may be cleared for a reason. You might want to talk with your IT department before changing the setting, lest you end up earning the wrath of your company’s geeks.

Hard Drive Problems

If you’re still having issues, it’s possible that a hard drive problem is the root of the issue. A corrupted or failing hard drive may hang while data is being stored, or may try to save data to corrupted areas, causing shutdown to fail.

You can check the health of your hard drives by opening My Computer, right-clicking your Windows install drive, opening Properties, and then using the Error-checking function under the Tools tab. You can also try using a more robust error-checking and drive monitoring suite like Hard Disk Sentinel Keep an Eye on Your HDD & SSD Health With Hard Disk Sentinel Keep an Eye on Your HDD & SSD Health With Hard Disk Sentinel Have you ever had a drive failure? Sadly, there’s no panacea for preventing hardware damage. But monitoring your HDD or SSD, to act when their death becomes likely, is a first step. Read More .

hardrive

If your drive is corrupted, you can try to repair it either with Window’s Error-Checking tool or the third-party utility of your choice. This does not guarantee the drive will be fixed, though, as corruption due to internal hardware failure How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data Several years ago, I experienced a hard drive failure. I was at work when my laptop suddenly started to act particularly strange. About half an hour later, the hard drive failed audibly and the laptop... Read More does occur. If that’s the situation you face, you’ll have to replace the offending drive.

Conclusion

A computer that hangs when you shut it down can be a real frustration, but hopefully these tips can resolve the issue for you. Remember, while it may be tempting to just hit the power button, doing so might cause unsaved files to be lost. Don’t ignore the issue; get your computer to shut down properly.

  1. Vinicius Sanctus
    October 11, 2016 at 3:03 am

    An awesome and very helpfull article. I sure learned a lot. Now i'll try to fix it but regardless, the world thank you for such an awesomely usefull arcticle. =D

  2. Joseph Hinchey
    June 15, 2015 at 6:52 am

    Nice but my computer is stuck on the shutdown screen and it has been for about 3 hours now

    • Ana Turcanu
      November 5, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      I'm having the same problem now, how did you fix it?

    • Ana Turcanu
      November 5, 2015 at 11:51 pm

      I’m having the same problem now, how did you fix it?

      • Björn
        January 13, 2016 at 12:29 pm

        As am I

  3. brianoh38
    May 28, 2015 at 1:45 am

    Thanks, that was extremely helpful and saved me a lot of time in the future and also prevented much frustration.

  4. Sandy
    May 20, 2015 at 4:54 am

    I have had this computer for over a year,windows 8. Tonight instead of being to shut down, it gave me three options, 1. Sleep 2. Update and shut down. 3. Update and restart. I have never seen these options before. I choose update and shut down, but it is taking a very long time to update windows and shut down. Is this normal?

  5. Anonymous
    March 24, 2015 at 12:55 am

    Fantastic! it was indeed the Paging File for me. Now it zips thru shutdown in less than 10 seconds as opposed to 10 minutes!

  6. Caleb
    March 21, 2015 at 2:31 am

    "unneeded information must be removed from memory" Pretty much nope on that one. What's ever in memory when the computer shuts off just gets lost. You don't have to "erase" ram when you shutdown, which is what it sounds like you're implying in this sentance.

    • Bill
      April 23, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Oh how wrong you are my friend. Every time windows shuts down it makes sure essential files are removed from memory and saved safely on the storage drive. If it did not, your system would become corrupt and unusable in a flash.

      • Anon
        June 30, 2016 at 5:44 pm

        I'll challenge that. Ever done a hard shutdown?

        RAM is volatile memory, and as such is cleared the second it loses power. So it doesn't need to be "erased," but any important data will be lost if it's not saved before shutdown. You should only do a hard shutdown if necessary, but unless you're installing updates or doing something else incredibly important you're not likely to damage anything.

  7. Jamal
    March 12, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    my problem is that my computer won't go to Sleep neither Hibernate nor shut down, even I changed my windows and it did not helped; I do not what else to do .

    please help.

  8. ezrider318
    February 10, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    i have been having some problems for some time with 8.1 64 bit almost hanging and taking way too long to shutdown! the solution was not only perfect but it solved everything. i had uninstalled my new 2015 kaspersky to figure out what the hell was going on. my system now runs like a charm regardless whether the pagefile is system managed or not!

  9. Alan Skelhorn
    February 5, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Thank you Matt my problem is sorted after trying the "Page File Problems", it has worked a treat on my Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop, running Windows 7.

  10. OLA
    December 21, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Thx Matt
    My PC suddenly went from 8 sec. shutdown to 3 min. probably a conflict between some update and an old driver. Your advice no 3; "Driver Or Operating System Problems - IObit offers a tool called Driver Booster that can scan your PC for outdated drivers and update them for you." did the trick now it's back to 8 sec. :))

  11. JBW
    December 19, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    The laptop I use at the office told me yesterday that it had 300 updates to install before it could shut down. I left it running its updates and went on home. When I came back in this morning and turned it back on, it took forever to get to a working screen, as it said it was reverting updates. What's going on?

  12. cwm
    December 12, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Thx for the helpful article!

  13. StevIe T
    July 26, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I agree with James V, I have a desktop with xp which took an ice age to shut down. I also have a new laptop with Win 8 installed that had me hovering over the wall socket switch for nearly a minute until it finally shut down. Then I installed Linux Mint onto both machines, and hey presto, instant shut down. Add to this the massive superiority of Linux Mint over Windows 8 and you cant lose.
    So! back to this article heading, "Is Windows Taking Forever To Shut Down? Try" Linux!

    • at-cay
      February 22, 2015 at 7:10 am

      You must not have had XP set up well. Back when I ran XP I could restart my computer (and have it fully booted) in 20 seconds with a traditional hard drive.

  14. James V
    March 6, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    My old laptop shuts down in 3 seconds running openSuSE Linux, way faster than Windows. Same with booting; on Linux I have time to get a cup of coffee. On Windows, I have time to make a pot of coffee. Linux: go to the bathroom for a #1. Windows (fittingly): time enough for a #2.

    • Turk
      January 5, 2015 at 7:17 am

      odd my win7 takes about 20 seconds with an ssd

  15. dragonmouth
    March 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    "System processes must end, data must be saved, and unneeded information must be removed from memory."

    And all kinds of user information needs to be transmitted back to Redmond.

  16. reality
    February 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Just another reason not to by Windows, thanks for the article.

    • Tech
      February 24, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      ...every OS has issues. One of the plus sides I find with Windows is that there are so many people using it in such a similar configuration that most issues are documented on several sites/forums and a plethora of workarounds/solutions are a click and short read away.

  17. Arun W
    February 5, 2014 at 5:21 am

    Thank you for writing comprehensive article, I have about 300 essential apps installed on my PC and few of them are put on delayed auto-load on start of the PC. But when it comes to shutting down of windows, I face lots of problem. Kwikoff's KoShutdown applocation helps me shutdown gracefully many times http://www.kwikoff.de/index.php/en/index.php

    • v1adimir
      February 25, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Well, if you're "sure" that you want to shut down - and don't want to mess around with your Windows and/or 3rd-party applications, there's always the Command Prompt (CMD):

      shutdown -f -s -t 00

      && for reboot (force, reboot, timer 0):
      shutdown -f -r -t 00

      ("shutdown /?" for the options)

  18. Joe
    February 4, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Windows 8 shuts down like Windows 98, in 1 second.

    • cuyo01
      April 9, 2015 at 2:56 am

      not for me, some times it worked fine and other times the monitor shutdowns but the cpu stays on and stays like this forever

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