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Chapter 2. The Desktop and Start Menu > Start→Turn Off Computer

2.4. Start→Turn Off Computer

This menu item is more powerful than its name implies. Choosing it opens a dialog box that offers several variations on "off" (see Figure 2-5).

  • Stand By puts your computer to "sleep." This special state of PC consciousness reduces the amount of electricity the computer uses. The machine remains in suspended animation until you use the mouse or keyboard.

    How the PC sleeps depends on its power-saving features. Usually, the hard drive stops spinning and the screen goes dark. Whatever programs or documents you were working on remain in memory.

    If you're using a laptop and working on battery power, the Standby mode is a real boon. When the flight attendant hands over your microwaved chicken teriyaki, you can take a food break without closing all your programs or shutting down the computer. And best of all, Standby mode consumes only the barest trickle of battery power.

    Use the Standby option when you want to put your computer to sleep on cue. It's worth noting, however, that you can set the computer to go into standby automatically whenever you haven't used the mouse or keyboard for a while. You can even make it so that the computer won't wake up again unless you type in a certain password. Page 271 has the details on these extra features.

  • Turn Off quits all open programs (or, in some cases, prompts you to do so), offers you the opportunity to save any unsaved documents, and then exits Windows. Most modern PCs then turn off automatically.

    If your older model requires you to manually press the power button, you must wait until a message appears on the screen telling you that it's safe to turn off the computer (which may take more than a few seconds).


    You don't have to open the Start menu to turn off the computer. Just press the power button. (If that makes the PC sleep or hibernate instead, see Section

    Hibernation as a Shutdown Technique

    When you shut down the computer in Hibernation mode, the next startup is lightning-fast. As soon as the startup procedure begins, Windows notices the hibernation file on the hard drive, says, "Hey, everything's in place," and loads the file into memory. After you push the power button, everything reappears on the screen faster than you can say, "Redmond, Washington." After you've enjoyed the speed of a power up from Hibernation mode, the normal startup seems interminably, unbearably slow.

    This instant-on characteristic makes it tempting to use the Hibernation feature every time you shut down your computer. But before adopting hibernation as your standard shutdown procedure, there are a few things to consider. When your PC hibernates, Windows doesn't have a chance to quit and then restart, as it would if you use the Restart command or shut the computer down. As a result, Windows never gets the opportunity to flush your computer's memory or perform the other domestic chores of a modern operating system. Consequently, Windows may seem to slow down over time.

    Furthermore, the Plug and Play feature described in Chapter 14 might not work when you plug in some new piece of equipment. That's because Windows ordinarily recognizes such new arrivals during the startup process—and when your computer hibernates, there is no startup process.

    The solution is to compromise. Use the Hibernation mode most of the time, but shut the computer down or restart it every now and then. (If you bought your PC with Windows XP preinstalled, you may have noticed that it starts up faster than before, anyway.)

  • Restart quits all open programs, and then quits and restarts Windows again automatically. The computer doesn't turn off. (You might do this to "refresh" your computer when you notice that it's responding sluggishly, for example.)

  • Hibernate is a terrific feature—but for some reason, Microsoft decided to hide it in Windows XP. It doesn't appear in the Turn Off Computer dialog box unless you hold down the Shift key. When you do so, the Stand By button changes to say Hibernate.

    Hibernating shuts down the machine after it memorizes the state of your software, including all open operating system files, applications, and documents. Behind the scenes, it saves all this memorized information into a file on your hard disk. (As a result, the Hibernate command doesn't work unless you have a lot of free disk space. The more RAM your computer has, the more disk space you'll need.)

    The beauty of this feature is that when you start the computer again, everything returns to the way it was when you shut down—fast. The same documents appear, the same programs are running, and so on. Hibernate, in other words, offers the speed and convenience of Stand By, with the safety of Turn Off.

    As with the Standby feature, you can configure your computer to hibernate automatically after a period of inactivity, or require a password to bring it out of hibernation. See Section 9.13.4 for details.



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