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Updated by Tina Sieber on December 26, 2016.
Yet there’s more to shutting down than just cutting the power. Windows must shut down system processes, save data, and purge unneeded information from memory. Usually, the shutdown 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 and how to speed up Windows 10 from boot to shutdown. You might also be interested in learning how to quickly shut down Windows.
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.
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 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 it 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.
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:
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.
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 for various reasons.
Windows 7 & 8
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.
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 that can scan your PC for outdated drivers and update them for you.
In Windows 10, Windows Update is enabled by default, though you can temporarily turn it off. To check on the status of your updates, go to Start > Settings > Update & security > Windows Update and see what’s listed under Update status.
Click Check for updates if it’s been a while since the last check.
If Windows needs to reboot to install downloaded updates, it’s best to use the Restart now option found in the Settings app. Here, you can also schedule a restart. Alternatively, you can go through Start > Power and choose one of the options that include Update.
Windows 10 also automatically updates your drivers. This has been known to cause havoc. You might have to manually re-install older or custom drivers.
Hopefully, checking on Windows Update 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.
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.
Disk Drive Problems
If you’re still having issues, it’s possible that a hard drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD) problem is the root of the issue. A corrupted or failing 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 or This PC, right-clicking your Windows system drive, opening Properties > Tools, and , under Error checking, clicking Check to scan the drive for system errors.
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 does occur. If that’s the situation you face, you’ll have to replace the offending drive.
Destination Speedy Shut Down
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, and optimize the boot time too.
Of course, a slow shutdown is just one type of shutdown problem on Windows. If you use a Windows 10 laptop, you might even encounter unexpected shutdowns due to the incorrect display of the battery level. The good news is that we have a fix for them!