Turning off your computer properly

When you're finished using your computer, it's important to turn it off properly—not only to save energy, but also to help keep your computer more secure and to ensure that your data is saved. There are three ways to turn off your computer: pressing your computer's power button, using the Shut down button on the Start menu, and, if you have a laptop, closing the lid.

To turn off your computer using the Start menu, click the Start button , and then, in the lower-right corner of the Start menu, click Shut down. 

When you click Shut down, your computer closes all open programs, along with Windows itself, and then completely turns off your computer and display. Shutting down doesn't save your work, so you must save your files first.

There's one other form that the Shut down button can take. If you've set your computer to receive automatic updates, and the updates are ready to be installed, the Shut down button will look like this.

When you click the Shut down button, Windows installs the updates and then shuts down your computer.

  • Starting your computer after it has been shut down takes longer than waking your computer from sleep.

Using sleep

You can choose to make your computer sleep instead of shutting it down. When your computer goes to sleep, the display turns off and often the computer's fan stops. Usually, a light on the outside of your computer case blinks or turns yellow to indicate that the computer is asleep. The whole process takes only a few seconds.

Because Windows will remember what you were doing, there's no need to close your programs and files before making your computer sleep. But it's always a good idea to save your work before putting the computer into any low-power mode. Then the next time you turn on your computer (and enter your password, if required), the screen will look exactly as it did when you turned off your computer.

To wake your computer, press the power button on your computer case. Because you don't have to wait for Windows to start, your computer wakes within seconds and you can resume work almost immediately.

  • When your computer is asleep, it uses a very small amount of power to maintain your work in its memory. If you're using a laptop, don't worry—the battery won't be drained. After the computer has been sleeping for several hours, or if the battery is running low, your work is saved to the hard disk, and then your computer turns off completely, drawing no power.

When to shut down

Even though making your computer sleep is the fastest way to turn it off, and the best option for resuming work quickly, there are certain times when you need to shut down:
  • You are adding or upgrading the hardware inside your computer—such as installing memory, a disk drive, a sound card, or a video card. Shut down the computer, and then disconnect it from its power source before proceeding with the upgrade.
  • You are adding a printer, monitor, external drive, or other hardware device that does not connect to a universal serial bus (USB) or IEEE 1394 port on your computer. Shut down the computer before connecting the device.
  • When adding hardware that uses a USB cable, you don't need to turn off the computer first. Most newer devices use USB cables. A USB cable looks like this:

Laptop users: Close the lid

If you have a laptop, there's an even easier way to turn off your computer: Close the lid. You can choose whether your computer sleeps, shuts down, or enters another power-saving state.
If you prefer, you can turn off your laptop by pressing the power button on its case.