|My Most Universal Computer Advice: Turn It off, Then Back on Again
My most universal advice
Is your computer acting strangely? Is it sluggish? Are you getting the "spinning cursor" a lot? Are things on the screen not drawing properly? Are you seeing other odd problems or error messages? Has it been on for more than a few days?
If so, then I suggest that you turn it off, then turn it back on again.
This won't fix every possible problem, but it can clear up a number of glitches, at least temporarily.
Additional things you should know
This may not be as easy as it sounds:
Why does powering off and on again help?
- If possible, first save your work in any open documents or emails that you've been working on.
- Clicking Shutdown or Power Off is best. Restart is ok but not as thorough, since it doesn't turn off the power. Don't use Sleep, Standby, Hibernate, or Log Off.
- If it's a laptop, don't close the lid because that will probably put it to Sleep, which is not helpful in this situation.
- On Microsoft Windows, if the "Shutdown" button in the Start menu shows a little gold "shield" with an exclamation mark (!), then clicking that button will also install any pending Windows Updates. If you want to skip those updates for the moment but still shut down your computer, press Alt-F4 on your keyboard, then look for the time-saving "plain" flavor of Shutdown in the pop-up menu that should appear.
- If you cannot get to the Shutdown or Power Off command because the computer is running incredibly slowly or has become completely stuck, pressing and holding the power button for about 10 seconds will probably force the power off. However, you should only use this particular technique as a last resort, do not use it on a regular basis. If this technique doesn't work and it's a laptop with a removable battery, taking its battery out should force it off; then put the battery back in again. If this technique doesn't work and it's a desktop computer, just pull out its power cord, then put it back in.
- If the misbehaving device is a printer or internet modem or router, don't bother with the on/off button. Instead, unplug the power cable from the back of the device (or the wall outlet or power strip), then plug it back in again. If the power cord has two segments (usually with an in-line transformer or "brick"), separate the segments and then reconnect them.
- With portable devices like smartphones and tablets (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.), you can probably reveal its Shutdown or Power Off command by pressing and holding the power button for a number of seconds. If that doesn't work, use Google to search for the right method for your particular device.
Unfortunately, most software is imperfect (including programs and operating systems), not thoroughly tested, and not designed to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, indefinitely. Instead, when run continuously for too long, software can get "tired and cranky," and due to memory leaks and other bugs, it can slowly "paint itself into a corner." Powering off and on again makes the device reboot, giving it a fresh start.
If you're confused or frustrated by something on your computer, I like to say, "You can do it!" You might just need a little encouragement, or information, or change of perspective, and that's where I come in.
How to contact me:
phone: (617) 484-6657
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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.