Tracking down and preventing unwanted reboots

Fred langa
By Fred Langa

Unwanted restarts can be more than an exercise in frustration and wasted time — they can easily result in lost data.

Fortunately, there are only three main causes of unintended reboots, so finding — and controlling — them is usually not hard.


Updates: The leading culprits for auto-reboots

Barry Karas wants to prevent annoying self-restarts in Windows.
  • “I leave my computer turned on all of the time, even when I’m not using it. (The OS is Windows XP Home.) Occasionally, the system automatically reboots. How would I prevent that from occurring and not have the OS nag me to reboot?”
Piece o’ cake, Barry! There are only a few things that will cause a Windows system to automatically reboot itself.

The most common reason is software updates that need to refresh applications or software components — usually apps that are in use or loaded into memory at the time of the update. This can include always-on system software and programs that start when Windows boots.

  • Windows Update is one source of such required reboots. But all versions of Windows let you control how and when Windows Update does its thing.

    In XP, open the Control Panel and click Security Center. At the bottom of the Windows Security Center dialog, under the Manage security settings heading, click on Automatic Updates and follow the instructions in Figure 1.

    Control xp's windows update

    Figure 1. In XP, choose the “Notify me but don’t automatically download or install them” option (circled in yellow).

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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.