Like most of us, if you use a Windows computer, you probably already know that the Start Menu gives you two ways to turn off your computer’s activities. You can click Shut Down, the name says it all. There is also a Restart option, which shuts down your computer and then restarts it.
But in recent versions of the Windows operating system, there is an important difference between these two options, according to software experts. They don’t shut down your computer the same way, and they should be used in different circumstances.
How does Shut Down work?
In older versions of Windows, Restart and Shut Down did the same thing, closing programs and powering down the computer. But in Windows 8 and 10, that has changed due to a new feature called Fast Startup, which is designed to eliminate the time-consuming processes of starting and turning on your PC.
“By default, Windows 10 enables the Fast Startup option when the user clicks Shut Down,” explains Rob Tidrow, director of operations for Richmond Community School in Richmond, Indiana. “This option allows Windows 10 to start up faster the next time the user starts Windows. The downside of this option is that not all processes are shut down.”
With Shut Down, Windows 10 shuts down all the programs and files you have open, but doesn’t shut down the Windows kernel — the core of the operating system that allows software and hardware to work together, Tidrow said. “The Windows kernel is saved to disk, similar to when you put your computer into hibernation, so that the kernel is ready to boot quickly next time.”
Although Shut Down and Fast Startup seem more convenient, there is one point to keep in mind. “If there’s something wrong with a hardware driver or the like, Shut Down won’t solve that problem,” says Tidrow.
How does restart work?
By contrast, a reboot actually shuts down all of the computer’s processes, including the kernel, according to Tidrow. That means you’ll have a completely clean session when the computer boots up again, although it takes longer.
“Reboot should be used when installing updates/software and to resolve any errors,” Microsoft, the maker of the operating system, explained in an email. Some software installations and updates actually require you to use Restart to finish the process. If your computer crashes or shows some other error, you should use Restart instead of Shut Down, although to you it may seem like Shut Down would be a more complete option.
There are several ways to trigger a reboot, Derek Meister explained via email. He is an agent for Geek Squad, a technical support and repair service provided by Best Buy. Besides using the Start Menu, you can hold CTRL + ALT + DELETE, click one of the icons on the Lock Screen.
You can also disable Fast Startup in your computer’s power settings so that when you shut down it will erase everything.
So what about the term Reboot? “For most people, Reboot and Restart mean the same thing. The fundamental difference with most computers and Windows 10 (and 8) is that a reboot usually involves the system being shut down to the point where the motherboard will have to run its initial boot load process as if you had power off the computer,” Meister said. “However, Restart involves the operating system shutting down on its own until Windows will reload, but usually without the additional step of rebooting the motherboard.”
Using a Mac
If you use the Mac operating system instead of Windows, it has the same options. Use Restart if your computer starts to behave abnormally, such as your cursor hangs on the screen or you have installed new software. Use Shut Down when you close your computer for a while and then reopen it.
Using Sleep Mode
All of this can lead to another question: Should you shut down your computer? Finally, you can put it in Sleep mode so that all your programs and files are ready for you to use immediately, whenever you open your computer.
However, a drawback of Sleep mode is that the computer still uses a little electricity. According to a 2016 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, electronic devices that are inactive but still draw electricity – such as computers left in sleep mode – consume electricity equivalent to the output of 50 500 megawatt power plant, and an additional $165/year. So you should consider it, although the electricity bill abroad is more expensive than in Vietnam.