Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Why do I get "There is another user logged onto your computer" when I shut down?

I turned on my computer and came back after 30 minutes or so to let Norton
do its scans and so forth. When I tried to start working my computer was nearly
frozen, so I tried to shut it down. I got a message that said “There is another
user logged onto your computer if you terminate now they may lose there work” –
so I quickly powered off but What’s going on? this is a new problem and I have
never accessed nor anyone else from elsewhere.

Based on your description, I’d personally be concerned that your computer
had been infected with some kind of malware allowing remote control.

But before we jump to such an extreme conclusion, let’s take a look at just
what that message means, and what you might consider doing to determine exactly
what’s going on.

“There is another user logged onto your computer” can actually mean a couple
of different things.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

If you run remote desktop sharing or terminal services, then someone may, in
fact, be logged into a separate session on your computer. This typically
requires Windows 2000 or 2003 server for true simultaneous multiple
sessions.

Fast user switching is another case where more than one person can be
“logged in” to your machine at the same time. Only one logged in user can
actually be seen and used, but the other remains logged in in the background.
In Windows, if you select “Switch User” when you Log Off, you’re not actually
logging off; instead, you’re simply putting the current user into the
background and logging in as a second user. Fast User Switching must be enabled
for this feature to work.

In both of the cases above, if you attempt to shut down your machine, you’ll
get the warning “There is another user logged onto your computer” because there
is. Either the remote desktop user, or the account that you switched away from.
Naturally shutting down the machine will force them to be logged off as
well.

The other common cause of this message is Windows file sharing on a local
area network.

If you create a file share on your system such that another machine can copy
file from, or possibly to, your machine, that creates a type of remote login.
Depending on your network and security settings, among other things, if machine
‘B’ is connected to a file share on machine ‘A’, then it is, in a sense “logged
in” to machine A. It’s a different type of login, but many of the same concepts
apply. Perhaps most importantly, much of the same security infrastructure
applies.

The net result is that if another machine on your network is accessing files
on your machine, then “There is another user logged onto your computer” may
result if you attempt to shut down your computer.

Now, those are all normal and typically benign reasons for the message. The
reason I’m concerned for your case is the high CPU usage or “frozen machine”
description you gave.

In a case such as this, the tool I’d reach for first is SysInternals Process Explorer. I’d do two things with
it.

First, after running it, I’d click on the CPU column to sort the process
list by who’s using the processor the most. Here’s an example:

Process Explorer sorted by CPU Usage

Here you can see that the System Idle Process is taking up most of my CPU
time – meaning that most of the time my computer has nothing to do. Other
processes are listed in order of CPU usage. If you see a process pegged at the
top of that list taking most of your processor, then you have something to
investigate – what process is it, and why is it being such a hog.

“…consider running an additional anti-virus or spyware
scan, and in any case make sure that your firewall is working properly.”

While you’re in Process Explorer, there’s a quick way to see if more than
one user is actually logged in via remote desktop or fast user switching. Click
on the Process column heading and the process will be listed in “hierarchy”
order – meaning that each process will be listed indented from the process that
started it. Normally the list will start something like this:

Process Explorer top of the hierarchy list

If you look further down, you’ll see an instance of “explorer.exe” to the
far left:

Process Explorer showing explorer.exe

“Explorer.exe” is your Windows user interface – the Start button,
the task bar and so on.

If you see more than once instance of Explorer.exe on the left, then more
than one account is logged in. You can examine the list of processes indented
beneath it – those are programs that this user is running. You can also use
“Properties” on the process to see what account is being used.

Now all these steps do is get you information. It’s quite possible that once
you see what’s running, you’ll say “oh yeah, that”, or you’ll Google up some
information that explains it.

On the other hand, this also might be a very good time to make sure that
Norton really is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, and is up to date.
Alternately, consider running an additional anti-virus or spyware scan, and in
any case make sure that your firewall is working properly.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

20 comments on “Why do I get "There is another user logged onto your computer" when I shut down?”

  1. Another way to tell if there is someone else logged on to your computer is with task manager.

    In XP Home, there is a “users” tab that will tell you if there is someone else on using the fast user switching function.

    Also, for all XP versions, under the processes tab, you can do a “view”=>”select columns” and check the “user name” column to display. Besides your name, you normally might see “system”, “local service” and “network service”. Also, certain services may run under alternate User Names. But you should be able to tell if there are any user names that are suspect.

    Reply
  2. I have 5 user accounts on this machine and even when they are all logged off, except for me, I still get that message shutting down. I just figured it’s a bug…I know there’s no remote sharing of any kind. It happens everytime I shut down or restart. I don’t worry about it.

    Reply
  3. lmao…I spoke too soon…..if I “log off” my account, I don’t get that get that message. You ever feel stupid after somethin you said?? lol

    Reply
  4. No one believes that it is possible for someone else to be loged on my computer. But then, where are all the music files coming from? Help!

    Reply
  5. if you have magic song files on your system you have been hacked. get a firewall and a good do an online scan from pest partol or panda.

    Reply
  6. I would like to put a friend of mine on MSN and he has given me permission to so hopefully I can do it and I don’t see why not. Please get back to me as soon as possible as it is really important that I get this account for him.

    Reply
  7. i’ve read the article above and it has been very helpful…i wanna ask one thing though, which is unrelated to this article but i’m hoping to find an answer here. i’m just wondering why spywares/malwares/trojan still get into a computer even if there is an anti-virus software already installed.

    i hope you can solve my confusion on this one

    tnx!

    Reply
  8. Hi! I have also had the message someone is logged onto your computer bla bla….. I suspect that someone is in my computer but i have ran the recommended checks and found nothing so far.Any more suggestions anyone?
    Im gonna sound paranoid here but is it also true that your phone can be tapped using stealth software?

    Reply
  9. Download a utility called as psloggedon and you can figure out who has logged on to your system. you will get the software from microsoft technet.

    Reply
  10. How can I tell if someone has tried to use my computer? I am the only administrator, there isn’t any guest user either. Also, fi someone has tried to shut down my computer, how can i tell?

    Reply
  11. Sir,
    In windows XP How to disable the message which pops up after clicking on turn off your computer (I have a remote desktop enabled on other computer.
    Please reply.
    Thank You.

    Reply
  12. I too have this problem on both Vista on my HP Desktop and my XP in my Dell notebook. On the HP Desktop it will not let me install a program called BalanceLog. The InstallShield Wizard says, “There are multiple users logged into your machine at the same time (fast-user switching). While BalanceLog works with this future, we requier all other Users be logged off when installing. Please log all users off and reboot your computer before running this installation.” My computer is not set up for other users to logon.

    Reply
  13. Maggie – did you figure out how to install BalanceLog? I am having the same problem installing it on my computer running Windows 7. Would love advice.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  14. when m computer says you are being logged off because you have another user on your computer what does it mean and how can i find out names of people who are on my computer

    Reply
  15. How can I tell if someone has tried to use my computer? winxp

    Quite often you cannot. It’s difficult to come up with a set of rules of things to look for because many of the signs of tresspass can also be signs of normal use.

    Leo
    15-Sep-2011

    Reply
  16. I have found the Sysinternal processexplorer very help full Thank You Leo.

    I am trying to prove who gets access to my computer can I trace back to the IP of the bandit who is getting into my computer . I know this because when closing down I am advised on the screen other users are logged in

    Reply
  17. No response required, just for your edification. I am in China and the government here has put something on my computer. It is always crashing and running out of memory. Usually comes up with the “other users” message when I reboot. Love to know how to block the bastards. They go home at 5 pm and suddenly everything works! Lovely country.

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.