Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Using your computer's Power button improperly or pulling the plug can lead to serious data loss. I'll look at the right way to turn your computer off.
I have been having problems with the Power button on my computer which turns itself on and off. I have stopped shutting down my computer because I have difficulty turning it back on. I just restart it every morning, but I really don't like leaving the computer on all the time. If I were to cut the power to the computer and then plug it back in the next morning, would I need to use the on/off button and would I be damaging anything?
Yes, but you may damage your computer.
By just pulling the plug, you run a good risk of corrupting data on your hard drive and a very small risk of actually damaging hardware.
I'm not sure what kinds of problems that you're having with the Power button, but even that needs to be used correctly, or you could end up with ... well, you could end up with the very problems that you're seeing.
One of the earliest jokes about Windows was about the fact that you should use the Start menu to stop the computer.
Problem is, it's no joke.
Turning off a computer is most definitely not at all like turning off a light bulb or even other moderately complex pieces of electronics.
Turning off a computer is a process. You might look at it as a process that starts with the Start button and ends with the computer turned off.
What happens in between?
The short answer is lots of geeky magic – lots of important geeky magic. Programs are closed, files are saved, information that was kept in memory is written to disk, hardware is turned off in the proper sequence, and more.
When you turn off your computer, a lot of important bookkeeping and cleanup work happens as part of the process of shutting down.
Important bookkeeping and cleanup work that you want to have happen.
Here's where it gets confusing: sometimes, it's OK to use the Power button.
On some systems – in fact, many systems of late – pressing the Power button is more-or-less equivalent to using the Start menu to shutdown your computer.
What's important here is that you hold it down no longer than one second. If you're holding down longer, you're doing something else, which I'll talk about next.
But if you press the Power button for a short time and you can see the system begin its process of shutting down, then you're probably OK to continue to do that.
One caveat: the Power button may shutdown your computer properly. It may put it into hibernate or sleep. You'll have to check the Power button settings in the Control Panel to adjust that to be what you want.
Finally, if it shuts down immediately – *poof* – don't do that again. That's the same as pulling the plug, which is bad.
If you hold the Power button down for five or 10 seconds until the computer turns off this is not OK.
That's like just pulling the power plug.
It completely bypasses the process of shutting down and can result in serious problems. If you shut down your computer this way regularly, stop it because you are almost literally asking your computer to corrupt the data stored on its hard drive.
The long-hold power-off functionality that's present in most computers is actually something that's implemented in hardware and is meant only as a last-resort solution in those situations when nothing else will work. In the hardware, it's actually implemented as almost identical to pulling the plug or removing the battery.
If you find that this is the only way that you can turn off your computer, then something is wrong. The Start menu approach should always work. If it does not - if, for example, your computer never shuts down - then that's a problem that should be resolved rather than risking data loss every time you force your computer to turn off.
When you unplug your desktop computer, remove the battery and power cord from your laptop, or long-hold the Power button to force a computer to stop, you're doing so outside of the operating system's control. I was tempted to say "outside of Windows control", but in reality, this applies no matter what operating system you're running.
Even when you're doing nothing with your computer, it's doing something. In fact, it's often doing quite a lot.
Files are open, programs are running, the disk may be being accessed ... it's almost impossible to predict exactly what is running ... and therein lies the problem.
Let's say that a program is updating something on disk – it doesn't have to be something you're doing, it could be some other program like your anti-malware tools, the system indexing tools, or something else that's running on your machine. If you suddenly remove the power in the middle of that operation, then any of the following may happen:
Nothing. You got lucky and the writing actually completed, because it's so darned quick. This is probably the most common case, but it leads to a false sense of safety.
The file that was being written is incomplete. Depending on the program writing the file, this can be completely benign or show up as a major problem the next time that programs try to access that file.
The file system directory entry that locates that file on disk could be incorrectly or partially updated if that's what the computer was writing when you pulled the plug. This can be benign, but in the extreme case, it can actually render the file system corrupt and you can lose not only the file that was being written, but large numbers of other files on the disk. This is bad; very bad.
The disk drive could be interrupted in the middle of writing a sector of information to the hard disk media. That could result in CRC errors for that sector and nearby information in other files. This may require a CHKDSK /R to repair or in the worst case, it could even require more advanced disk recovery and maintenance. Fortunately, with modern drives, this is typically rare.
Hopefully, you get the idea: just pulling the plug is a bad idea and should be used only as a last resort and immediately prior to resolving any underlying problem that required it be used.
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