Why does my machine take forever to shut down?

Booting your machine can take time, but sometimes so does shutting it down. There are various issues that can contribute to a slow shutdown.


Why does my machine take forever to shut down?

Start, turn off computer … and wait.

At least, that’s what it seems like in many cases. We hear a lot about delays in booting the computer or slow downs when running various applications, but how about when it’s time to go? How do we get the machine to shut down now without just pulling the plug?

As always, there are many possible reasons for a slowdown so we’ll take a look at the most common.

It’s important to realize that shutting down the computer is almost as complex a process as starting it up. Once you tell Windows that you want to shut down, it in turn asks (yes, asks) each currently program if shutting down is OK. After each program has been asked, each program is then told that Windows is shutting down.

Why this seemingly complex chain of events? Naturally, it’s a feature! If you have unsaved edits in your word processor, then you want Windows to pause so that it has a chance to save those edits or ask you what to do. Some applications need to be in a certain state before powering down, so they’re given the opportunity to say no to abort the shut down.

So, it’s easy to see that shut down speed is at the mercy of every piece of software you have running when you shut down. Each has to be asked and each has the opportunity to perform some work, perhaps even time consuming work, before Windows shuts down. In the worst case scenario, they can pause the shut down process completely as they ask you things like, “Do you want to save this file first?”

As a result, I rarely “just” shutdown Windows. I close each application I’m running (or at least the “big” ones) first.

Computer FrustrationWhat about all that software that’s running that you didn’t start? Of particular note are the applications that started automatically; instant messaging applications, real-time virus checkers, and so on. They also have the opportunity to take time to clean up before shutting down. Check out this prior article, What’s all this stuff running after I boot Windows? for help in identifying and possibly removing some of the items that slow down your start up as well as your shut down.

Another common cause for shut down slow downs is the network. There are various types of network connections, from files being shared across a LAN, to instant messaging conversations in progress, with many more in between. Each connection needs to be individually closed on system shut down. In many cases, that means that whatever you’re connected to needs to be informed that you’re no longer connected. If the remote side is slow or non-responsive, that can contribute to how long Windows takes to close that connection on shut down.

There are certainly hardware problems that can result in slow downs on shut down. More commonly there are conflicts or issues with the device drivers – the software used to control the hardware – that cause shut down problems. Actual hardware issues more commonly cause problems at other times as well.

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

Finally, there’s the issue of viruses and spyware. They can certainly wreak havoc in many ways not limited to shut down. Most cause problems at other times, but have been known to affect shut down as well. Check out the prior article How do I keep my computer safe on the internet? for some tips on keeping them off your

Typically, each situation is a little different. These guidelines should allow you to narrow down the causes of your slow down and eventually fix it.


  1. mick

    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. Jim

    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. ken

    I am intrested in finding out how you solved the problem of computer not shutting down.Also why my cursor hangs up.I am running Windows 98se on a Compaq Presario.

  5. David Robinson

    It’s an extremely frustrating experience! Is it better to shut down/reboot frequently? If so, how frequently. I suspect Bill Gates and his friends are at the back of this. I use my PC all the time. On the other hand…
    …my personal recommendation is to get a Mac.
    Problems of this kind simply don’t occur. Now that’s what I call a feature – if I want to shut down my computer, it shuts down. Or is that too simple for all you PC gurus out there?



  6. garrie thompso

    It can take up to seven or eight minites for my computer to shut down. (Running XP Home Edition). There are several ways I can temporarily correct this problem such as changing any start up selection and then restarting. Shut down will be fine after that for about a twnety minute period and then the problem re-appears. I’m not very computer literate. Any simple things I can Do?

  7. 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.

  8. Bob Mettam

    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?

  9. Gary

    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 that.help please

  10. khan shahid jamal

    my machin is not shutting down

    in last movement
    the message comes that windwos is shutting dwon but its not shutting dwon for a long time machin hunges up an that massage is not comming its now to turn of your computer

  11. Aida

    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

  12. billy

    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…

  13. Nestor

    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.

  14. Nestor

    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

  15. Lisa

    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.

  16. Sanjay

    If I work on my desktop for more than 5 hours, it does not shut down. I have to shut off the power to shut down. Thank you.

  17. Mike

    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 >_

  18. WRobN


    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…

  19. Mark

    Sometimes it helps to close all your windows manually. It shouldn’t be necessary bu 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 :-)

  20. Mike Ruden

    My computer takes so long to shut off and it is new so i am really scared it will break , but it is a gaming computer so does that effect. Somebody please help me or tell me how to fix it!!

  21. Robert S.

    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.

  22. Ryan

    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.

  23. rohit

    hey ma pc config is 1GB RAM,3GHz dual core ,mercury motherboard n 160 GB hdd. ma pc starts n shuts down very slow it takes almost 5mins. i dont hav ne virus in ma pc.. It mite be a hardware problem.
    pls reply me on my mail id.. will be waiting for ur reply…

  24. russ

    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

  25. Keith Oxley

    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.

  26. Gary Blackburn

    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?

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