Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Shut down messages can happen for a number of reasons. The solution might be as simple as waiting a minute.

Why are there always programs that will not respond while shutting down Windows? Having to end them manually to shut down Windows is very annoying. Oh, and this does not happen when I have Macrium Reflect shut down Windows after completion of an image backup. I'm using Windows XP Pro, Service Pack 3.

In this excerpt from Answercast #48, I look at a machine that regularly throws an error on shut down; often, waiting is the right answer.

Errors shutting down

So, when your system tries to shut down, what it's really doing is it's asking each individual program that's also running on your machine, "Would you please start shutting down now?" After some amount of time, if the program is still running, you get that error message that says basically "This program isn't responding. Do you want me to force it to shut down now?"

  • While I see that message from time-to-time;

  • Very rarely do I actually have to force the program to close.

  • It depends on specifically what program it is that this error is being reported against;

  • But in most cases, I just wait.

Sometimes, I wait for a minute or two and the program that it's waiting for that hasn't closed yet does close.

What's happening?

So, my sense is that either of two things are happening:

  • One is simply that Windows is too impatient.

It's throwing this error message too quickly because the program that you're waiting to close is actually having to take longer to clean itself up... or whatever it does when it closes the program.

  • Or, the other side of the coin is that Windows is being perfectly reasonable about these things, but the programs themselves are simply taking too long to close.

In either case, the solution, my first recommendation, is the same - wait awhile. Wait another minute or two and see if things don't resolve themselves that way.

Macrium closes fine

Now, as to why this wouldn't be in an issue when Macrium does the close? Macrium is probably going to do either of two things:

  • Either, it's waiting longer, like I just suggested you do;

  • Or it's automatically throwing that "force option" onto the shut-down request - that basically tells Windows, "You know what, shut this down, force everything that isn't responding to shut down and get the heck out of here!"

So, I really don't read a lot into Macrium Reflect's ability to do this without throwing an error message.

Macrium Reflect, realize, has to be able to do this unattended, which means the intent is that you can start your Macrium Reflect backup and walk away and know that, when Macrium Reflect is done with the backup, it will shut down your machine. That means:

  • That it can't assume you're going to be there.

  • It can't assume that you're there to say yes, wait, or kill, or whatever.

  • It has to assume that one way or another, it needs to take care of the problem.

Like I said, it's going to do that either of two ways:

  1. It's going to wait longer;

  2. Or it's going to tell the operating system from the start to go ahead and do the shut down, but force everything down.

So, that's my recommendation - wait a little while longer. If you can't, if it really gets to the point of being excessively long, then try and identify which program it is that the operating system is waiting for. That program, then needs to be investigated as to why it's taking so long to shut down.

Next from Answercast 48 - How do I back up to a memory stick?

Article C5750 - August 29, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Deb Ragno
August 30, 2012 6:20 PM

"So, that's my recommendation - wait a little while longer. If you can't, if it really gets to the point of being excessively long, then try and identify which program it is that the operating system is waiting for. That program, then needs to be investigated as to why it's taking so long to shut down." Ok, this is exactly what I need to do. HOW do I do it? I've shut down the computer and come back twelve hours later to discover it never shut down, it is still trying. So I have to use the power button and then start again at which point I get the message the the computer didn't shut down properly. Well, yeah, I know that. Then it wants me to start in safe mode but the keyboard is frozen so I can't make that choice. I feel like every time I go through this (about once a week) I'm doing more damage to my computer. I'm not tech-savvy, so I need someone to help me here! I called the manufacturer while it was still under warranty (warranty ended two weeks ago) and they were no help. I don't know how to identify the program that is causing the problem. Once I am at the blue screen that says "shutting down" and it doesn't shut down, what do I do next?

Well, the article you commented on is about an error that pops up where Windows tells you exactly what program is not responding. Your situation sounds more like this article: Why does my machine take forever to shut down?
August 31, 2012 8:52 AM

Another issue is that some programs may be "waiting for user input" but the request for input may be hiding behind something else. Technically it is a user error such as not saving your work before shutting down the computer but the software writer thought that a small message (that then hides behind other windows) would be more pleasant.

September 3, 2012 4:57 AM

I get this message often now, on my laptop. "Windows is waiting for the following progams to close before shutting down".
Trouble is, 90% of the time, the list is empty. Sinse I cannot force a program to close when I don't know what it is, waiting is my ONLY option.

September 4, 2012 9:18 PM

I loved the animation with the programs talking to each other in this answer Leo!! It also explained (for me at least) about that notice often appearing when shutting down. Great answer again.

September 5, 2012 12:20 PM

I used to get this error every shut down, from my HP 3in1 laser printer software. Even when I would exit the program before shutdown, the error still was there. . The HP digital imaging monitor was the culprit. You needed it for scanning documents [w/o it, scan feature wouldn't work]. Even better, if I wasn't present to click "allow exit", a shutdown would hang and never close. Of all the updates I received over the years, this problem was never resolved.

This unit, and it's bloated software, have been removed and banished to my closet.

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