Free ‘Process Explorer’ helps end shutdown woes

Fred langa By Fred Langa

A free tool from Microsoft’s Sysinternals can show you exactly what’s preventing smooth system shutdowns.

Process Explorer works on XP, Vista, and Windows 7 and is available in either a self-contained or a live, Web-based version.

Fixing a slow or hung Windows shutdown

Reader Jim Swearingen reports on another glitch that can hinder smooth shutdowns. He’s using an XP system, but the diagnosis and solution can apply to any Windows version.
  • “Fred’s Feb. 3 item, ‘User Profile Hive Cleanup speeds XP shutdowns,’ was good, but it didn’t address the specific problem I’m having.

    “My shutdown (or reboot) lingers only a second or two at the ‘Saving your settings …’ screen but hangs at the ‘Windows is shutting down …’ screen.

    “Sometimes shutdown (or reboot) continues to completion, but at least 50% of the time it’s necessary to force a manual shutdown or reboot. Adding the -f parameter to my shutdown command (shutdown -s -t 0) has made no difference.

    “My OS (XP Pro SP3) is completely up-to-date, the Registry is clean, and the hard-drive partitions are defragged on a continuing basis.”

It sounds as if a low-level software process, or maybe a driver, isn’t responding to the operating system’s shutdown command. XP is sitting there, waiting for an acknowledgment that comes either slowly or not at all.

If you noticed the problem after installing new software or hardware, roll back your system by uninstalling that software or by removing that hardware and uninstalling any drivers associated with it. See whether that solves the problem. If so, the permanent solution may be as simple as switching software or using different drivers for the hardware.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2011-02-24:

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.