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Why Does My Machine Take Forever to Shut Down?

Why does my machine take forever to shut down?

Click Start. Click Shut down.

Wait. Wait. And wait some more.

It’s not uncommon to complain about start-up time, or the speed of your computer while booting. As it turns out, the amount of time it takes to shut down is another source of occasional frustration. I mean, how long should it take to turn something off? Why can’t it just shut down now without pulling the plug?

As always, there are many possible reasons. I’ll review the most common.

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Shutdown: it’s a process, not an event

It’s important to realize that turning off your computer is almost as complex a process as starting it up — perhaps even more so.

Once you tell Windows to shut down, it in turn asks each running program if that would be OK. This gives every program an opportunity to do things like warn you if you have unsaved work. Next, all programs are then told that Windows is shutting down, whether they like it or not. After that, device drivers (the software responsible for each piece of hardware on your system) are similarly told that a shutdown is about to happen.

Why this complex chain of events?

Shutting DownEvery application needs an opportunity to save whatever it needs to save prior to closing. Each device driver needs an opportunity to turn off devices in an orderly manner, saving whatever state might be important to the next time you turn the machine on.

That all takes time. Sometimes it takes a long time. And sometimes there’s a problem.

So many programs

Shut-down speed is at the mercy of every piece of running software. Each is given the opportunity to perform some work, potentially time-consuming work, before Windows finally shuts down. In the worst case, they can even pause the process completely, as they ask you things like, “Do you want to save this file first?”

As a result, I rarely “just” shut down Windows. Instead, I close open applications first. As I do so, I deal with any that need final input from me.

So many more programs

What about all the programs running that you didn’t start?

It’s common to have many programs start automatically when you sign in to Windows. From security software, automatic update utilities, to communications tools like Skype, they impact the amount of time it takes for your system to start and shut down. Each program has the opportunity to take time “doing something” before they exit.

Waiting What Windows Startup Programs Do I Need? is a good place to learn what  starts automatically on your machine, and some tactics to determine whether they’re needed.

Hardware too

Your local network can be responsible for shut-down delays, too. Each local connection — say an active printer, or files and folders being shared locally — needs to be closed individually. If the remote side is sluggish or non-responsive, that contributes to overall slowness.

Other hardware problems can result in slow shut down. Most common are issues with device drivers (the software used to control the hardware) that can cause shut-down problems. Actual hardware issues more commonly cause problems at other times.

Make sure your drivers are up to date. Conversely, if you start experiencing a problem after updating a device driver, it makes sense to check with the manufacturer.

And malware too

Finally, there’s the issue of malware.

Malware works in mysterious ways, and can certainly wreak havoc at any time, including shut down.

Check out the article Internet Safety: 7 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet for tips to keep your machine safe from malware.

A word about never shutting down

There’s taking too long to shut down, and there’s never shutting down at all.

Everything I’ve discussed above applies to both situations. Never shutting down could be due to the software you’re running, device drivers, hardware issues, or malware. The difference is that being slow may simply be a side effect of everything working as it’s supposed to.

Never shutting down, on the other hand, is a failure of some sort. Poorly-written software, bugs, and configuration issues can result in software waiting for things that will never happen before it can shut down.

The most important thing you can do to avoid these scenarios is to keep your software as up to date as possible.

Your mileage may vary

The real problem with shut-down delays is that there’s rarely a single cause; each situation is different.

Hopefully, these guidelines will allow you to narrow down the cause of your slowdown and eventually fix it.

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34 comments on “Why Does My Machine Take Forever to Shut Down?”

  1. hello
    once i stop all programs and shut down its say windows is shutting down, then i hear a sound which means windows has shutdown (nomally in 5 seconds after that the systems should go of but it who not, it can stay that way for over 20min unit i put out the power it just says windows is shuting down) thanks for the svchost.exe i was almost going to pull it out.

  2. You didn’t indicate which version of Windows you’re running. I’ve seen what you describe (hanging after the shutdown sound) as typically being caused by misbehaving device drivers. Best advice I have right now is simply to make sure everything is up to date.


  3. Hi leo
    I’m running xp pro.
    When I try to close yahoo programs,
    Still running, after I closed it,
    I end up using ctrl alt del.
    to close this program,

    plese can you help ?

  4. Harmful? No. Will it wear out a little faster? Maybe. It really depends on the quality of the computer to begin with. For most machines it won’t matter, but for poor quality equipment it can.

  5. Running XP Pro SP2, with Windows update turned on.
    At shutdown, I’ve been getting the message “updates are being installed” and “do not turn the computer off” (or similar) and I’ve left it to do its own thing overnight – but in the morning its still trying to install update 1 of 3 …
    Could this be related? I tried to install an application today but could only do it after I’d used setup.exe’s /verbose switch. Have I lost an InstallShield registry setting?

  6. my pc is running xp pro if i have it on any longer than 15 minutes it can take up to 10 minutes to shut down, if i shut it down within 10 mins of start up it shuts down normally? .it runs great apart from please

  7. There are many different ways to shut down Windows application programs. How many do you know? Write down at least 3 different options. Please tell me as fast as you can. Thank you very much

  8. i have a few games that when played at first, they were smooth for the first 10 hours of game play…then they started to lag alot…granted, the games are very memory intensive…but i donot understande why it just starts in the MIDDLE of the game when it didnt do it before…

  9. One night I came to my room and saw the PC fan lights on, I thought my PC shut the monitor down only, I moved the mouse, press ENTER and nothing worked but the PC seemed to be on. I press re-start from the case. Then it boot up… later I was using Nero burning a DVD, I left it burning and went away, when I came back, in front of me, the monitor shut down. last thing I could see was a message from Nero. But I knew it was burning all right until I got closer. Now the strange part is that I left my PC on one of this days, and I took a Nap, when i opened my eyes my PC was on savescreen time, nice, then I stood up and monitor again turned off. and I had to do the same pressing on the restart from the PC case. I already went to check power options, went to BIOS and place everything as default, before. but as I have told you, the strange part is that when I got closer to the PC it shut down. Any Idea ?? Any sensor that it is making this? I have wireless keyboard and mouse. I think my cousin installed Quicktime before this issue. that was the only thing it was added.

  10. I had an idea about my last issue, It was in remote assistance, It was on and I do not remember having checked this one, I asked my cousin who installed the quicktime program and told me my anti-virus asked something of granting something he did not understand and he click to grant acces in my McAfee AV. 2006

  11. My monitor will just shut off and not respond but the computer is still on. I can’t reboot the computer using the button. I have to actually physically turn off the power. What’s up. Any clues.

  12. Here is my thing, when i load up my computter is semi fast, i hardly have anything to load up when i start. But my thing is it takes like 30-40 minutes for me to shut down my computer. The only thing i play on it is World of Warcraft. I can understnad maybe a 10 minute shutdown but a 30-40 minute >_


    Is there no manual solution to this?
    If not, my guess is that MS knew all about this and created this problem, or if it was a softwarefault, did nothing about it.

    Why? Because the only solution is by downloading that program to have a workaround for it.

    And they put it under the MS Genuine Validation Tool to check if you got a legal copy.

    Well, no problem so far. But if there’s no other simple solution then using that program (i aint found one yet in months). It seems to me MS still uses the old day attitude of search and destroy.

    They know lots of pc’s have problems, and the only way to solve them, is to become a full member of the MS society. In other words he is still using the monopoly he has. Those antitrust cases against MS are a joke, MS still has monopoly…

  14. Sometimes it helps to close all your windows manually. It shouldn’t be necessary but Windows isn’t always efficient in their automatic processes. I usually don’t shut down my computer. I put it in hibernate mode. That copies the contents of memory to the HD and shuts off. I shut down once or twice a week or when the computer gets sluggish. My Mac friends try to get me to change my religion to Mac User :-)

  15. My computer (Vista) literally takes me 2-3 minutes of shutting down time before it finally turns off. I know vista is a normally slower than other os like win7 and xp but this one is really frustrating, until I was convinced I need to do something to fix the slow computer shutdown problem. I researched here and there, and basically I was able to solve the issue by doing 4things: performing system restore, closing unnecessary programs that run in the background, defragmenting the pc, and cleaning the registry. Now I’m more than contented because I was able to solve the issue on my own without the help of a technician :) thanks to leo and all other great posts that helped me.

  16. I am having problems with long shut downs on my windows 7 64bit PC. I added a New Video Card recently I added another 2GB of DDR2 800 so I have 4GB and just yesterday I went from a E5400 to a Q8400. I feel after installing the Core 2 Quad my computer has been taking much longer to shut down. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I checked to see if my hard drive was defragmented it was only 2% but I defragmented anyway. There have been times when I go to shut down or put into sleep mode I’ll turn off my monitor go watch some TV and when I come back my computer is still on I turn on the monitor and I got some kind of memory Error. I click OK and it shuts down.

  17. One should reg Defrag-and disc clean up.
    also check your computer protection{Boot scan}
    minimum weekly.and as suggested sleep or close existing -then shut down

  18. My desk top computer is running Windows 7 32 bit and when closing down I receive a message ‘Operations are in progress – please wait
    The machine will be turned off automatically after the operations are complete’
    However, I have left this running in excess of 10 hours over night and in the morning the message is still there. Can you advise please.

  19. Leo, I’m running Windows 7 with current updates 64bit. When I do a restart most of the time I will get “Operations are in progress, please wait. The machine will be turned off after the operations are complete.”

    My PC seemingly will never finish this process and will not shutdown. I have waited for a full day and then I just manually restarted. What’s up with this? What’s going on?

  20. Following up on the issue of a prolonged shut-down, my MacBook Pro has a ‘Force Quit’ option which I’ve only had to use once or twice when a problem arose when sending a large batch of photos and they could not go through but the ‘Send’ window would not shut down and so I had to use ‘Force Quit’.

    My question is: since ‘Force Quit’ is an option, albeit a last one, on the MacBook Pro, do the problems which you have described that are associated with forced shut off also apply in this instance?

    • Yes and no. A force quit (which I’ve used myself) only affects the application — so generally things like partial writes to a hard disk would not happen, nor would filesystem corruption. However whatever the application was doing at the time could leave ITS information in an undetermined state.

  21. Is it actually necessary to ever shut down? Come to think of it, I only “Sleep” or “Hibernate” my laptop, and never hit “Shut down”. Is there anything wrong with that?

  22. This is now really out-of-date. First thing I noticed with Windows 10 (I pretty much skipped 8/8.1) was the difference in shutdown time. With most of my computers and my clients’, shutdown often takes 20-30 seconds. Startup is another matter. My working hypothesis is that Windows now suspends most tasks on shutdown, and actually closes them as part of the startup.

    This makes sense to me as more users moved to laptops, where you might need to shutdown very quickly to take your computer when leaving $tarbucks.

    • I’ve noticed that Windows 10 shuts down and starts up very quickly. The problem is that this isn’t the case with everybody’s machines. This article is relevant for those people. Most of the reasons described in the article are due to non-Windows processes and drivers bogging down the system and the advice given mostly covers dealing with those issues.

  23. With a Windows 10 machine, if you tell it to restart then the shutdown part of the restart can take two to three minutes. If you simply tell it to shut down, it happens a lot faster.

    • I’m not sure Windows 10 actually shuts down. I think that it calls it Shut Down but is actually hibernating, only ever truly shutting down during a restart.

      But really I don’t care … even with my Windows 7 laptop. I always close every program that is running so that everything I’ve been working on is saved. Then I give the shut down command and walk away. Whether it’s 30 seconds or 30 minutes, I could care less. I would only care if it never shuts down.


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