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Can you pull the plug on your PC? Relax and count to a million

January 1, 2005

in All Articles,Miscellaneous

Patricia from writes:

“A problem I have is not being able to shut off the computer. I finally pull the plug, which I do not think is the wisest thing to do?”

You’re happily working on the computer, checking your email before work. Your ride pulls up outside and honks. You read, “Please wait while your computer shuts down.” So you wait. You hum the Spice Girls tune “Time Goes By”.

Your ride honks again. The honk is clearly impatient. You look at the computer. No change. You start to sweat, realizing this is Barbara’s turn to drive, and she’s always upset with anyone who’s late. That message is still there.

There’s a long blast on the horn. Your neighbor’s dog starts barking. Staring at the screen, you hope if you concentrate enough, you’ll help the computer finish whatever it’s doing and just…. turn… off!

Frustrated, you give up and hit the power switch, feeling pangs of guilt and fear, not knowing what happened or if yanking the power without permission has somehow damaged your expensive paperweight. Sprinting from your house, you see Barbara’s car pulling away, fishtailing down the street. You end up taking a cab to work, arriving late. Barbara pointedly ignores you.

With this horrible day, there’s something very important you should know: It’s not your fault.

This problem is common to Windows. Newer versions of Windows have fixed this, older versions have not.

What’s happening here? Put simply, when you tell your computer to shut down, it goes through a (supposedly) brief housecleaning. It vacuums, dusts the mantle, and applies touch-up paint here and there. This is so the next time you start the computer, it’s fresh, clean and ready to work properly. (This is also the reason for the technical support mantra, “reboot and try again”.)

When the computer freezes during shutdown, it’s simple to describe what happened: Little Billy left a roller-skate on the top of the stairs, and the computer tripped and fell all the way down. The housecleaning was unexpectedly interrupted, and the computer is now lying facedown at the bottom of the stairs, moaning and cursing the inventor of the roller-skate.

Is this something we should worry about? If the computer freezes, can we just pull the plug? The answer is yes, with one note: Make sure the computer is truly “locked”. If things are still moving on the screen, or you hear grumbling “thinking” noises coming from the PC, wait till the noises stop before you cut the power. Otherwise, if you’ve been waiting a while and the computer is silent, pull that plug with confidence!

It’s a problem, but not a critical one. Fixes are available (see listed websites for technical details), but for most people it might be easier to live with this problem than to try and fix it.

Computers aren’t perfect, and contrary to popular opinion they do make mistakes. It’s hard to find good help these days.

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