Turning something off sounds simple. Switch off the lights when not in use, or press a button on your remote control to turn off your TV. So, why isn’t it that simple to turn off your computer?
Turning off your PC by tapping the power switch off or unplugging it, albeit easy, is never a good idea! Doing so can lead to data loss and potentially cause an electrical short, leading to a power spike. Power spikes can cause damage to your power supply or the computer itself, so its best to avoid this at all costs.
Shutting down your PC properly isn’t all that hard. You go to the Start menu, click Power, and choose Shutdown, or you can simply hit the power button on your PC. In the past, turning off your PC by pressing the power button was a bad choice. Nowadays modern operating systems are smart enough to recognize a power button press and apply the same process as using the built-in Shutdown menu.
Using either method does not usually shut down your PC right away. It makes some noises, and the screen tells you its shutting down, but it seems to take its sweet time doing so. Sometimes, it even does those gosh-darned updates! And you start to wonder why you cant just unplug it or turn off the little switch by the plug to get it over with.
What Your PC Is Actually Doing
Your PC is working patiently to ensure that all of your open programs shut down in an orderly manner. Sometimes, these applications are still open and require the PC to tell them to shut down if you have not already closed them. Other times, the operating system is writing changes to that mysterious system registry. Trust me, you want that to complete successfully!
Lets use the analogy of a messy desk full of work. Your computer has done work ALL DAY. Now, at the end of the day, it has to put away all the files it used throughout the day. It has to take the coffee cup to the dishwasher, throw away the napkin from lunch, and straighten up the pens used during the day.
In other words, your PC is diligently doing all the work to clean up from the day so that it is optimized and ready to go when its turned on again.
Suppose you elect to be impatient and pull the plug or use that switch on the power supply. In that case, you could damage files on the hard drive or damage files you had open. While modern hard drives and modern file systems have safeguards called journaling that can help to prevent data loss, its better to allow the computer to shut down properly to ensure that all of your files are safe.
Have you ever shut your computer down by pulling the plug, and then came back to see the picture above after turning your computer back on?
This happens because your computers file system needs to check no files are damaged. After all, it KNOWS that the desk is still messy. This will also be helpful so that, in case there are problems, it can inform you about them or try and fix them.
So at the end of the day, ESPECIALLY if you hate running those hated Windows Updates, know that it pays to be patient and to power down your PC properly.