How to Set Windows Vista to Reboot Overnight

By Woody Leonhard

Shutting a Windows Vista computer all the way down and then rebooting can cure many computer problems. When you reboot, Windows goes through several self-repair processes that really can make a difference. But if you leave the computer on all the time (even if it’s sleeping or hibernating), the computer never gets a chance to do this cleanup process.

You can use the Windows Vista Task Scheduler to perform a complete reboot at a time when you don’t need to use your computer. The reboot takes the computer back to the Windows logon screen. When you log on in the morning, Vista restores most of the programs you were using to the point they were in when you shut down.

The operative word there: most. Any programs that register themselves with Vista (including all the Microsoft Office programs, Internet Explorer 7, and Firefox 2) get restored to where they were before the reboot. Many other programs, particularly older programs (such as WordPad and Paint), won’t reappear. If you leave unsaved work open in those programs, when you come back after the automatic restart, any changes you made are lost.

With that important warning, here’s how to make Vista reboot automatically overnight:

1Make sure your user account has a password.

You can run scheduled tasks only for accounts with passwords.

2Choose Start→All Programs→Accessories→System Tools→Task Scheduler.

After you click Continue on a User Account Control warning message, Vista shows you the Task Scheduler.

3On the right, under Actions, click the Create Task link.

The Task Scheduler shows you the Create Task dialog box. This rather odd buzzard works like a wizard, but it doesn’t behave like one. Follow along closely.

4In the box marked Name, type a name for the restarting job.

For example, Dummies Restart.

5Under Security Options, select the button marked Run Only When User Is Logged On.

Don’t worry, the scheduled task will run even if the PC is in “sleep mode.”

6Check the box marked Run with Highest Privileges. Click the Triggers tab. At the lower left, click New.

The Task Scheduler brings up the New Trigger dialog box.

7Under Settings, click Daily. For a Start time, choose a time when you’re not likely to be using the computer. Click OK.

For example, you can choose to run the reboot at 4:00 in the morning every day if it’s unlikely that you’ll be using the computer at 4:00.

Think about Vista’s other scheduled tasks when setting the reboot time. You don’t want the reboot to interfere with other activities like a defrag run.

8Click the Actions tab. At the lower left, click New.

You see the New Action dialog box.

9In the Program/Script box, type shutdown, and in the Add Arguments (Optional) box, type /g /c "Rebooting the computer" and then click OK.

It’s important that you have no spaces after the slashes and a space in front of the second slash only. You can put any text you like between the quotes. Whatever you put there will appear while the shutdown is in progress.

10Click the Conditions tab. If you keep your computer plugged in all the time, check the box marked Wake the Computer to Run This Task.

If you’re using a laptop that isn’t plugged in all the time, consider whether you want to run the task even if the computer isn’t plugged into the wall and then make the change accordingly.

11Click OK.

The Task Scheduler displays a password prompt.

12Type your current password into the box and click OK.

Your new task appears in the Active Tasks list at the bottom of the Task Scheduler.

The password must be valid when the shutdown command runs. So if you change your password at any time in the future, you have to come back to the Task Scheduler and change the password here, too.

13Close out of the Task Scheduler and restart your computer.

Scheduled tasks don’t always “take” until the computer is restarted.