Troubleshooting: Windows Won’t Shutdown or Restart

By Posted 2008 Updated   ComputersGuest Posts

Have you ever clicked on the Shutdown or Restart button in Windows and have absolutely nothing happen? Sometimes Windows gets stuck because of some process that has become hung, meaning it is running, but can’t be ended in the normal way.

Hence, you try to shutdown or restart your computer, nothing happens at all. If you’re lucky, after a minute or two, you might see a message pop up saying that a process is hung and you can either let Windows try to end it or you can press End Now. I always prefer End Now!

windows end now

Unfortunately, sometimes Windows simply refuses to shutdown and it won’t give you any kind of message. Don’t worry, the underlying cause of this is still a hung process, so all you need to do is kill the non-critical Windows processes one by one or modify the registry so that a hung process is automatically ended without manual intervention. I’ll explain both methods.

Kill Windows Processes Using Task Manager

If you want to figure out exactly which process is preventing Windows from shutting down properly, then you need open the Task Manager and start ending processes one by one. To open the Task Manager, press CTRL + ALT + DEL and press the Task Manager button.

ctrl alt del task manager

You can also press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC and the Task Manager will start up automatically. Click on the Processes tab and press the User Name column header to sort the processes by user.

task manager processes

Now beginning ending each process that has a user name that matches the current user name of the Windows account you are logged into. Do not kill the Local Service, Network Service or System processes. Those are usually not the cause of the hang. Once you kill the process that is holding up the shutdown process, Windows will be begin shutting down immediately, so make sure you remember the name of each process before killing it.

Once you’ve figured out the process name, uninstall that program or repair it. You can also search on Google for the process name if it is not something obvious like Safecfg.exe, etc.

Automatically Kill Processes via Registry

You can also modify a registry key so that Windows will automatically kill any process that is hung. This will ensure Windows will shutdown or restart when you ask it to. Open the registry by clicking on Start, then Run and typing in regedit.

start run regedit<br />

Navigate to the following registry key:
HKEY_USERS.DEFAULTCONTROL PANELDESKTOP

In the right hand pane, double click on AutoEndTasks and change the value from 0 to 1.

autoend tasks

Now simply reboot your machine and hung processes will be ended automatically when you restart or shutdown your computer.

NOTE: Whenever modifying any keys in the Registry, be sure to make a backup of the entire Registry in case something goes wrong.

This is a guest post by Aseem Kishore, the lead blogger for HelpDeskGeek, which focuses on providing Help Desk tips to IT Professionals. 

This is a guest article and represents opinions of the guest author

21 comments on “Troubleshooting: Windows Won’t Shutdown or Restart

  1. Aoi says:

    Ah, the fun of regedit, the Task Manager, and other joys of Windows. You did a great job explaining how to avoid the other solution (press the power button until the system resets, then reboots). In my experience, most people do more harm than good when they launch Regedit, but that’s just one person’s view.

    • Stephen says:

      I would suggest more users have hard drive issues usng your method. By default, holding the power button will tur the system off. Then commonly people boot it back up before the disk spins down. A voila, new HDD required.

      Just one persons view

  2. Abhishek says:

    I dont understant , why people dont start using Linux where processes are handled quite well by kernal.

  3. nizam says:

    i have number of trouble shooting.when i on my computer is not booting and display is not coming what the problem.how to solve this problem please response me soon and i have abother problem when is install a audio drivers my system is restarting.how to install audio drivers and no restart problem please response me soon.sorry for my english is not good

    • Stephen says:

      Did it work previously?

      If so, try booting with “last known good configuration”

      This should use the previous driver.

      If this not the case, then try pressing F8 just before the windows loading screen on boot, and select safe mode. Then install the drivers.

  4. Matt says:

    Thanks! That helped a lot. I had a process running that was preventing it from shutting down even though I clicked shut down and restart.

    Solved.

    -Matt

  5. Naomi says:

    Great advice! Worked perfectly, just not sure how to backup registry. However I did the process through task manager, and without any problems it fixed everything straight away. Able to restart and shutdown without a problem. Thanks so much for your advice… I’m pretty smart with computers but I couldn’t wrap my head around this one. You were the only person to offer no nonsense clear advice. I will be sure to check here first with any other problems that may arise in the future. Thanks heaps. Much apprecieted!

    • bj says:

      hi naomi, i just want to clarify if each time you end the process, you tried to shut it down. Or, you just end them all one by one, then shut it down?

  6. jack says:

    tried the process through task manager but user entries just wouldnt delete.

  7. vespera carlin says:

    i’m on vista and it doesn’t shut down, restart, or log off. It will either display the message “logging off” or “shutting down” for eternity–it doesn’t end. I left it there for 5 hours and it wouldn’t log off. When i click restart it just goes to the blue and green background with windows vista business written at the bottom, and stays there. I had music playing when i clicked restart, and the music is still playing. Even when i don’t have music playing, it wont do the 3 things above. On top of all that, it’s not showing me a message to kill any ‘hung’ process, because it’s not at the desktop. It’s ‘halfway’ between restarting and not restarting. This is getting on my ******* nerves.

    • Neti_IT says:

      Got the vista CD? if yes boot it up and run a repair.
      Should fix any corrupted files you got that causes the problem.

      Dont know how to use the repair, ill would google it, its not hard and not easy to make mistakes.

  8. Crystal says:

    I tried to use the automatic kill but it’s just not working for me. I cant’ find the AutoEndTasks registry key. I was about to use the first method but I’m just really unsure about ending processes.

    • Neti_IT says:

      The Registry key is where he says it is..
      At least on Windows XP might be different on Vista/windows 7.

      Ending processes is also more safe then let say put in the wrong value or string in the registry..

  9. mike says:

    Thanks pal! the registry tweak make the day!

    • katy says:

      I have a PC on Vista that won’t shut down. I tried everything described on this site so far, but all I get is that little “busy” circle, centered on a pale “currently connected to” box. I was able to shut down twice before, let the PC rest and restarted, only to have the same thing happen. I know better than to hold down the “off” button, but that may be my only resort. Can any kind person help? I’m an old person and not exactly geek-worthy. I’m sending this from my laptop. Thank you.

  10. Bob says:

    Dell Inspiron E1405
    Problem: won’t reboot: I get this message every time: A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down…
    If this is the 1st time, restart computer
    If this scenne appears again (it does) follow these steps: Disable any anit virus: check hard drive conf., Run chkdsk/f for hard drive corruption and then restart comp.

    The computer goes back to this screen each time. Any advise? Bob

  11. Samantha says:

    This did not help at all. My computer won’t even open task manager when I press ctrl, alt, delete. I am seriously worried and don’t know what to do. I can’t get my computer to shut down, log off or restart. If anyone can help me in any way I would appreciate it very much. Thanks.

  12. Soki Briggs says:

    I’ve been asked to write about this particular problem. are these the only two solutions? (Except doing a hard shutdown)

  13. Akhil K A says:

    Hi Chandra,

    Yeah its working! Thank you for your lovely article. I have been worried about this problem for a long time. I tried number of ways but nothing got succeeded. Well Thank you.

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