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Network Troubleshooting: Rebooting a Client Computer

Sometimes, trouble gets a computer on your network so tied up in knots that the only thing you can do is reboot. In some cases, the computer just starts acting weird. Strange characters appear on the screen, or Windows goes haywire and doesn’t let you exit a program.

Sometimes, the computer gets so confused that it can’t even move. It just sits there, like a deer staring at oncoming headlights. It won’t move, no matter how hard you press Esc or Enter. You can move the mouse all over your desktop, or you can even throw it across the room, but the mouse pointer on the screen stays perfectly still.

When a computer starts acting strange, you need to reboot. If you must reboot, you should do so as cleanly as possible. Although this procedure may seem elementary, the technique for safely restarting a client computer is worth repeating, even if it is basic:

  1. Save your work if you can.

    Use the File→Save command to save any documents or files that you were editing when things started to go haywire. If you can’t use the menus, try clicking the Save button on the toolbar. If that doesn’t work, try pressing Ctrl+S (the standard keyboard shortcut for the Save command).

  2. Close any running programs if you can.

    Use the File→Exit command or click the Close button in the upper-right corner of the program window. Or press Alt+F4.

    If a program refuses to close, you can usually shut it down by using Windows Task Manager. Right-click the Windows task bar and choose Start Task Manager. Then select the program you want to close and click the End Task button.

  3. Restart the computer.

    • Windows XP: Choose Start→Turn Off Computer to summon the Shut Down Windows dialog box. Select the Restart option and then click OK.

    • Windows 7 and Vista: Click the Start button, click the right arrow that appears at the bottom-right corner of the Start menu, and then click Restart.

    • Windows 8: Oddly enough, shutting down Windows 8 is a bit challenging. You can stare at the Windows 8 desktop all day and not find an intuitive way to shut down your computer. The secret lies in the Charms Bar, which you can find by hovering the mouse over the lower-right corner of the screen. Next, click the Settings icon, and then click the Shut Down icon.

If restarting your computer doesn’t seem to fix the problem, you may need to turn off your computer and then turn it on again. To do so, follow the previous procedure but choose Shut Down instead of Restart.

Here are a few things to try if you have trouble restarting your computer:

  1. If your computer refuses to respond to the Start→Shut Down command, try pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete.

    This is called the “three-finger salute.” It’s appropriate to say, “Queueue” while you do it.

    When you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, Windows displays a dialog box that enables you to close any running programs or shut down your computer entirely.

  2. If pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete doesn’t do anything, you’ve reached the last resort. The only thing left to do is turn off the computer by pressing the power On/Off button and holding it down for a few seconds.

    Turning off your computer by pressing the power button is a drastic action that you should take only after your computer becomes completely unresponsive. Any work you haven’t yet saved to disk is lost. (Sniff.) (If your computer doesn’t have a Reset button, turn off the computer, wait a few moments, and then turn the computer back on again.)

If at all possible, save your work before restarting your computer. Any work you haven’t saved is lost. Unfortunately, if your computer is totally tied up in knots, you probably can’t save your work. In that case, you have no choice but to push your computer off the digital cliff.

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