Can ‘sloppy shutdowns’ on Windows XP slow down or corrupt the operating system?

Joe Videtto May 19, 2012
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I work in a school where students and teachers (sometimes even myself) engage in non-controlled shutdowns of Windows XP machines for the sake of time. School guidelines direct shutdown of the machines, and students and teachers want to work to the last second.

Sloppy shutdowns include:
1.) pressing the power button and holding it until the PC goes off

2.) Shutting the power strip power button, which has plugged into it the Computer base and CRT for 4 PC’s.

Can these types of activities slow down or corrupt the machines running Windows XP ? How about Windows 7 or Ubuntu?

Finally – is there an inexpensive program that can be used to turn all the 30 lab machines off with one command?

Thanks in advance,

  1. Anonymous
    December 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Improper shutdown has less issue with hardware than with Windows OS. When OS was improperly shutdown, it can cause disk fragmentation to systems and left behind uncommitted files. When you boot up the system, the OS detect a dirty state and will run consistency check on those files, and if the DLL cache folders has incomplete or half loaded libraries because someone pull the plug during shutdown, it can potentially cause DLL system-wide corruption leading to BSOD. Of course, Microsoft make significant improvement on each OS revision, Windows 7 handle these events more gracefully than Windows XP and XP handle this better than Windows NT/2000.

  2. Paul Harris
    May 28, 2012 at 2:27 am

    On my laptop (Windows 7), you go to control panel > power options > System settings and choose the close the lid for shutdown. The computer performs an orderly shutdown.

    This is only for laptops, obviously. Desktop PCs pose a different problem.

    The online manual for my computer (Asus) says powering down with the power button can cause loss of data.

    Saving your data and closing programs should be done before power switch shutdown.

  3. Matt Charman
    May 24, 2012 at 9:53 am

    To speed up the actual shut down, I'd avoid "quick shut down" programmes which can work for a while then suddenly not boot. They seem to just kill all running services without shutting them down properly and force the OS to exit.

    A much better way is to identify WHY it is the systems take a while to shut down, and do something about it.

    There's a registry key...
    ...that tells the system how long to allow for a service to shut down when asked, before it kills the service. If you change this to something like 1000 (1 second) then shut down, you should be alerted to which services have "hung". You can then determine if they are needed or not. If they're not needed, why run them in the first place - disable them! Not only does this make shut down quicker, it also makes booting quicker and the computer run quicker overall.

    You'll find similar things such as...
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WaitToKillAppTimeout
    HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop\WaitToKillAppTimeout
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\HungAppTimeout
    HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop\HungAppTimeout

    Finally, if you're completely happy to let tasks and applications be killed automatically rather than prompting the user to confirm, you can change this registry key value from a 0 to a 1
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\AutoEndTasks
    Be aware if you do this, programmes like Word will not be able to stop the computer shutting down if "Document1 has not been saved", so although it saves time it should be used with caution.

  4. Windowsisbettr
    May 21, 2012 at 1:42 am

    As for the issue of TEMP files, if you use disk cleanup (Windows+R, then type in cleanmgr), you can clean up all of the files that are wasting space. I generally hard shutdown because I find its cleaner and quicker. :D

    • Joe Videtto
      May 22, 2012 at 12:07 am

      I found a freeware program called "Super Quick Shutdown" that works really quickly - and I'm thinking it's doing the same think that the hard shutdown does.

      • Windowsisbettr
        May 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm

        Actually, hard shutdown is a physically triggered shutdown, not software triggered.

        • Matt Charman
          May 24, 2012 at 9:58 am

          There is provision in the OS to shut down the same way.

          Open Task Manager (Ctrl+Alt+Del). Click on Shut Down menu (top of the window). Highlight ‘ Turn Off ‘ and while holding down the Ctrl key , click on it. After 5 seconds the PC will power off.

          I believe this also works on Win7 from the Start menu Shut Down option, but I've never felt the urge to try it.

        • Windowsisbettr
          May 24, 2012 at 2:40 pm

          I'm not gonna try it at work but I'll try it on my personal computer.

  5. Windowsisbettr
    May 20, 2012 at 2:59 am

    Hi Joe,
    In order to perform a remote shutdown, all you have to know is the local name of the computer. Then you have to open the Remote Shutdown Dialog.
    To open the dialog window click start, click run, type cmd and press enter. A black DOS looking window will open. Type shutdown -i and press enter.
    Once you've done that, click the Add button and type in the names of the computers you want to add, one a line.
    I wouldn't use LanHelper, because its a bit pricy (70) and windows has the same features built in

    • Joe Videtto
      May 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      wow - sounds great - cheap and easy ! I'll give it a try this week.

      • Windowsisbettr
        May 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

        No problem!

  6. Laga Mahesa
    May 20, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Have a look at LanHelper :

    Does remote shutdown, wake on lan and a bunch of other stuff in one tiny package.

  7. ha14
    May 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Windows needs to shutdown properly, if not some services, process will not work properly on next reboot and you might face blue screen and windows didnt shutdown properly messages...

    Use the Remote Shutdown Tool to Shutdown, Restart, or Logoff a Local or Networked Computer

    Remote Shutdown 1.0


    EMCO Remote Shutdown

    • Joe Videtto
      May 20, 2012 at 1:25 am

      Thanks for the exhaustive list of shut-down options. I will start playing with them next week.

      Regarding the other risks you mention
      - processes may not work properly on next reboot
      - possible blue screen
      - windows didnt shutdown properly messages…

      I've been lucky not to ever experience any of this, despite shutting down frequently in the way I described.

      I do recall reading that there could be temp files that were not cleaned up properly, and was wondering where they would be and if they need to be manually removed.

      Also - if I ever do run into those messages - is it easy to recover, or have you heard of needing to reinstall the operating system to recover ?

      • ha14
        May 20, 2012 at 5:17 am

        Well, recovering easy depends on the damage you can have
        1)Last known good configuration message available startup
        2)If the above do not work then options like boot to safe mode
        3)If boot to safe mode do not help then you have to use windows restore points or then live boot cd to play with registry...

        reinstall possibly will depend on the damage, if you have restore points regularly then reinstall the whole system will not be necessary unless Windows restore center get damaged....

  8. Kyem Ghosh
    May 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    the process of force shut down may cause hardware problems cz when you are suddenly breaking the power, the circuits in your pc would store some current and which may produce some more static electricity within your machine which is bad for your your hardwares. Softwares may not cause that much problem but your hardwares will get much affected. I'm providing you a link below containing simple program to shut down multiple computers. ( plz give it a try as I've not tested it, but I guess, I might be fruitful)

    • Joe Videtto
      May 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      thanks very much - will try it out and give you some feedback

    • Bruce Epper
      May 20, 2012 at 1:10 am

      From a hardware standpoint, killing the power in this manner is no different than what happens when the system is shut down properly. At some moment, the power supply just stops supplying power to the system as the switch is flipped off. The only difference in doing it by simply pulling the plug, or flipping the switch on a power strip, or holding the power button until the system shuts off and selecting the shutdown option from the operating system is that the OS gets to perform its software termination and cleanup procedures before the power is dropped. This means that all cached data for the hard drive will be flushed to disk and the data and metadata on the hard drive will be in a consistent state before the power is lost. By just dropping power, this data may be in an inconsistent state, the system on reboot will want to perform a checkdisk operation and in some cases the improper shutdown may cause the computer to be unable to boot again without resorting to manual repair procedures to fix the drive corruption.

      • Matt Charman
        May 24, 2012 at 9:40 am

        I'm sorry, Bruce, but you're not quite correct there. Pulling the power from the socket IS different to shutting down - if you pop a scope on the outputs of your power supply and try it, you'll often see many power supplies, especially the cheaper end of the market, do not cut power cleanly in this instance, where they do if you shut down properly.

        You are right about the OS, and I do get machines in for repairs that have been regularly shut down by the power button because the user couldn't be bothered to wait. Quite a lot result in lost data, because the person is in the habit of just turning off at the switch, and in doing this, didn't get the alert that "Document1 has not been saved" or equivalent from their software.

        The problem expressed seems to me to be a staffing issue as much as a computing issue - shut the computers down properly, and have an I.T. person go around with the caretaker to ensure computers are shut down etc. This will also let them catch problems with shut-down that may flag up other issues with the OS or software or users.

        If a computer has been used, it's no hassle to do a proper shut down, it's just pure laziness. A remote shutdown wont actually make the shut down go any faster, it just removes the need to go around the room clicking the shut down icon, but if somebody was sat at the PC then they can shut it down properly. The only time I've ever found remote shut down programmes useful is when I have a room of machines that have been booted up, but not all were used (eg. 25 computers on, 12 students, 13 computers not used).

        • Joe Videtto
          May 24, 2012 at 10:06 am

          Yes - staffing issue too, no question there. But laziness ? not fair. I don't think I should have to wait several minutes for a computer to shutdown. When I'm done with my PC use, I don't want to spend any more than the time it takes to click a button. There's always some sort of process running that windows is waiting to shut down, or some other dialog box - again, probably due to staffing issues. Given this environment, I still want out fast.

          How long should a shutdown take on 10 year old machine, if it's been properly maintained, and maybe it's just me - but even my home PC, in fairly good working order, always seems to have some process running or dialog popup that slows the shutdown process and requires more clicking than just the "Start...shutdown" key. Now here's where the laziness does come in - I never seem to make the time to find what's really causing those processes not to shut properly. Maybe that should be my next MakeUseOf question : )

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