The number of reasons for Windows reboots has decreased considerably over the years. But, sometimes, it seems odd to me that operating systems still have to reboot at all. I think, the rise of tablets will force system developers to rethink this weakness. Until then, we have to shut down and reboot our computers at least every now and then.
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The problem is that "now" is usually the wrong time from the user's perspective, and sometimes Windows insists that "then" is too late. There are many reasons why Windows can initiate a restart without user consent, including during the processing of automatic Windows updates or when an updated application just wants to be sure that everything will work properly. Or perhaps you just initiated the shutdown at the moment your boss calls to ask for some important data and you want to stop it.
I know of four ways to stop or prevent shutdowns and reboots:
1. Click the clock ^
If you are sitting in front of the PC and recognize that one application window after the other magically closes without your intervention, then you have to be very quick to convince Windows that "now" is not "then." This can be done by clicking the clock in the systray to change the date to a time in the past. This makes Windows believe that "now" is still in the future and so it stops the shutdown or reboot process. The problem with time machines is that they need a lot of energy and, in this case, a lot of speed to be put into action. If you only have a few applications open for Windows to close, you will see the "Shutting down…" message before you even had the chance to click the calendar.
2. Shutdown -a ^
The "click the clock" trick is not the official way to cancel shutdowns. An alternative is to open a command prompt and type "shutdown -a". However, only a young PowerShell geek who doesn’t have arthritis in his fingers yet would be fast enough for that. To be prepared for the future, you can just create a Windows shortcut and use the "shutdown -a" command as the "location of the item." If you copy this shortcut to the quickstart bar or to the Windows 7 taskbar, then you can stop a shutdown with a single click in the future.
3. Shutdown Event Tracker ^
Click the clock and shutdown -a only help if you are currently working on the PC. Besides, only John Wayne in his early days would have been fast enough to always win the duel with Windows. For seasoned admins like me, it makes sense to activate the Shutdown Event Tracker. If this setting is enabled, Windows will always display the Shutdown Event Tracker dialog before it actually shuts down the computer. You probably know this feature from Windows Server; enabling this GPO setting will activate it for Windows clients as well. This means an extra click to shut down Windows, but, at least, you will always have enough time to load your rifle and pull the trigger when you are ready. The corresponding Group Policy setting to activate the Shutdown Event Tracker can be found here: Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Display Shutdown Event Tracker.
4. ShutdownGuard ^
If you don't want the Shutdown Event Tracker to ask for a reason every time you reboot, then you might be interested in ShutdownGuard. This tiny free tool sits in the systray and can be enabled or disabled with a mouse click. If enabled, it will prevent every shutdown. In Windows XP, ShutdownGuard displays its own warning message in the systray; in Vista and Windows 7, the integrated new shutdown warning dialog appears. You can then either cancel the shutdown or just click "Force shut down".
Do you know of another way to cancel or prevent shutdowns?