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Why should I restart my computer regularly?

The Problem

“Have you restarted your computer?”

If your computer is acting weird, any IT person you tell about it is going to reflexively ask that question. Sorry, we can’t help it. It’s in our DNA.

And after being asked this question a dozen times previously, you (almost as reflexively) respond, “Absolutely. I power it off every night.”

But did you really? Maybe. Maybe not. Before we look deeper into the IT question and your answer, a little background is called for.

What's going on?

Over its lifetime, Microsoft Windows has evolved into a solid operating system. The fact that we use our Windows-based computers for hours on end, day after day without Windows (for the most part) getting in our way is a testimony to that fact.

But, as much as Windows has improved over the years it still has some … issues.

One of these issues is that Windows works a lot more smoothly if it’s restarted regularly. The longer Windows runs, the more it begins to develop passive-aggressive tendencies that can drive you crazy.

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We’ve all seen it. Everything’s humming along nicely, and then things start to go a little wonky. Stuff doesn’t work right or just stops working at all. Sometimes little things. Sometimes big things. That image over there? That's a big thing.

But then you restart your computer and everything’s back to normal. What gives?

Why does this happen?

To thoroughly explain this phenomenon would require us getting deeper into the technical weeds that either of us want to go. Believe me. Suffice to say, that periodically, Windows needs a “cleanse”. But instead of drinking chard smoothies, a restart does the trick.

But what if you power down your computer every day and this passive-aggressive neurosis doesn’t stop? And then your IT person gives you that “look” (you know the look I’m talking about) when you swear you powered off the computer.

Maybe you really didn’t power down. Maybe you just put the computer to sleep.

But I pushed the button!

Windows allows the power button to be configured to do a number of things when pressed; enter sleep mode, power off, hibernate (more about that another time), turn off the display, or just do nothing. The default is to enter sleep mode and this default is seldom changed. So, for most Windows computers pressing the power button doesn’t power off the computer at all. It just puts it to sleep.

Windows sleep mode leaves your apps running but lowers the system's power consumption. It's NOT the same as restarting. It's not a digital cleanse.

Sleep mode does what it does (or doesn't do) for a couple of reasons. First, sleep mode saves battery power. Always a good thing. And it makes getting back to work much faster. You don’t have to wait for the complete Windows startup process to finish to open your working set of apps. Everything’s ready and where you left it with the touch of a button. Very handy.

But there’s a downside to this convenience. It doesn’t provide the cleanse Windows periodically needs. To do that, you have to either restart Windows or completely power down the computer and power it back up again.

The Solution

The solution to Windows passive-aggression is a system restart. It’s not hard to restart your computer, but it’s amazing how few know how. So, if you’re not sure, here’s what you do.

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First, click on the “Windows” icon on the taskbar. It’s usually in the lower left corner of your display unless you’re a non-conformist and have opted to position your taskbar somewhere else.

Next click on the “Power” icon. This opens the Power Menu as seen to the right.

Then click on “Restart”. And you’re done.

Your computer will restart. Its passive-aggressive behavior will a thing of the past. Everything works. Your workday is back to normal. No condescending looks from IT.

Until next week when it all starts over again.

The Takeaway

So, what's the bottom line here? Restart your computer on a regular basis. At least once a week.

I restart mine every day. Sure, the Windows boot process adds a couple of minutes to my day, but in the long run my relationship with my computer is so much the better for it.

Yours will be too.