Can rebooting a computer actually help fix computers? This article looks into some of the myths about what rebooting computers can actually achieve. In addition, the Windows System Restore tool is discussed as one tool that can help fix computer issues.
First, let’s clarify some terminology: Saying that you reboot computer operating systems is another way of stating that you restart the PC. In some regions, the concept of a reboot is mixed in with the concept of restoring computer settings (i.e. rolling back settings). This post assumes that rebooting computer systems is the same thing as a restart.
Rebooting Computer Options: Soft/Hard Reboot
A soft reboot is where you use the Start/Windows menu to shutdown the PC. All open application data is saved to disk prior to the computer restart.
By contrast, a hard reboot is where you press in the computer’s power button (usually for 10 seconds) to force an immediate shutdown. Open applications are not given the chance to save their data. This is the best approach to take if your computer freezes on startup or during general operations.
So does a restart actually fix anything? I reboot my computer in order to resolve two main issues: RAM caching and program corruption/bugs.
- Cached RAM: Some applications can retain RAM memory even after they have been closed. Browsers can be particularly bad for this on flash based web sites. I reboot my computer in order to clear the RAM cache completely.
- Buggy Applications: When using beta applications they can be unstable and prone to crashing. Even supposedly well-tested applications can have known issues that cause operational faults. If simply restarting the program does not resolve a problem then I reboot my computer to see if this clears out any temporary files that are causing problems for the application. If the computer freezes up due to the application, then there is often no choice but to do a hard reboot.
Reboot Computer Combined With A System File Restore
In terms of reboot computer tips, it is worth combining a restart with restoring the system files using the Windows System Restore application. This tool administers snapshots of your system files and you can select the date of which restore file versions you wish to use.
You can start the tool via All Programs > Accessories > System Tools or run it when the computer is booting up by hitting the F5/F8 key (depending on your operating system).
If my computer freezes repeatedly or I suspect some registry damage then this tool lets me roll back the system files (including the registry) and restart the computer with a healthy configuration. While this will not fix computer problems directly, it can return your PC to a working state. See our post on PC freezes for other possible causes and solutions.
The risk with using the System Restore tool is that any registry/system settings made since the snapshot will be lost. This could result in newly installed applications not working properly (though you can simply reinstall the program to fix this).
One other rebooting computer tip to try is starting the PC in safe-mode. This puts a cap on the number of running services when starting the PC. If your computer freezes with a blue screen error then it may be due to a faulty service, in which case using safe-mode can bypass the faulty program and let you log in and troubleshoot the problem.
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