Nerdism at its best

April 23, 2018

Reboot that device!

Ask a geek how to fix a problem you’ve having with your device and they’ll likely ask “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” This seems like a flippant response, but rebooting it can actually solve many problems.

So what’s going on here? Why does resetting a device or restarting a program fix so many problems? And why don’t geeks try to identify and fix problems rather than use the blunt hammer of “reboot it”?

This Isn’t Just About Windows

Bear in mind that this solution isn’t just limited to Windows computers, but applies to all types of computing devices. You’ll find the advice “try resetting it” applied to wireless routers, iPads, iPhones, Apple Computers, Android phones, and more. This same advice even applies to software — is Chrome, Firefox, Internet explorer, or Safari acting slow and consuming a lot of memory? Try closing it and reopening it!

Some Problems Require a Restart

To illustrate why rebooting can fix so many problems, let’s take a look at the ultimate software problem a Windows computer can face: Windows halts, showing a blue screen of death. The blue screen was caused by a low-level error, likely a problem with a hardware driver or a hardware malfunction. Windows reaches a state where it doesn’t know how to recover, so it halts, shows a blue-screen of death, gathers information about the problem, and automatically restarts the computer for you. This restart fixes the blue screen of death.

Windows has gotten better at dealing with errors — for example, if your graphics driver crashes, Windows XP would have frozen. In Windows Vista and newer versions of Windows, the Windows desktop will lose its fancy graphical effects for a few moments before regaining them. Behind the scenes, Windows is restarting the malfunctioning graphics driver.

But why doesn’t Windows simply fix the problem rather than restarting the driver or the computer itself? Well, because it can’t — the code has encountered a problem and stopped working completely, so there’s no way for it to continue. By restarting, the code can start from square one and hopefully it won’t encounter the same problem again.

Examples of Restarting Fixing Problems

While certain problems require a complete restart because the operating system or a hardware driver has stopped working, not every problem does. Some problems may be fixable without a restart, though a restart may be the easiest option.

Windows is Slow: Let’s say Windows is running very slowly. It’s possible that a misbehaving program is using 99% CPU and draining the computer’s resources. One could head to the task manager and look around, hoping to locate the misbehaving process an end it. If an average user encountered this same problem, they could simply reboot their computer to fix it rather than dig through their running processes.

Your Browser or Another Program is Using Too Much Memory: In the past, Firefox has been the poster child for memory leaks on average PCs. Over time, Firefox would often consume more and more memory, getting larger and larger and slowing down. Closing Firefox will cause it to relinquish all of its memory. When it starts again, it will start from a clean state without any leaked memory. This doesn’t just apply to Firefox, but applies to any software with memory leaks.

Internet or Wi-Fi Network Problems: If you have a problem with your Wi-Fi or Internet connection, the software on your router or modem may have encountered a problem. Resetting the router — just by unplugging it from its power socket and then plugging it back in — is a common solution for connection problems.

In all cases, a restart wipes away the current state of the software. Any code that’s stuck in a misbehaving state will be swept away, too. When you restart, the computer or device will bring the system up from scratch, restarting all the software from square one so it will work just as well as it was working before.

Ultimately, the answer is that “resetting a computer wipes away the current state of the software, including any problems that have developed, and allows it to start over from square one.” It’s easier and faster to start from a clean state than identify and fix any problems that may be occurring — in fact, in some cases, it may be impossible to fix problems without beginning from that clean state.

Restart your iPhone X

  1. Press and hold the Side button and either volume button until the slider appears.
  2. Drag the slider to turn your iPhone X completely off.*
  3. After your iPhone X turns off, press and hold the Side button again until you see the Apple logo.

Restart your iPhone 8 or earlier, iPad, or iPod touch

  1. Press and hold the Top (or Side) button until the slider appears.
  2. Drag the slider to turn your device completely off.*
  3. After the device turns off, press and hold the Top (or Side) button again until you see the Apple logo.

*With iOS 11 or later, you can turn off your device by going to Settings > General> Shut Down.

How to Hard Reboot any Android phone or tablet

As the word already implies, a Hard Reboot requires you to do something with your phone’s hardware. Some devices, like, for example, the Nexus 5 or Samsung Galaxy S8, don’t have removable batteries.

To simulate a battery pull, turn on your phone, press and hold the Power and Volume Down buttons simultaneously until you see the screen shuts down and you see the reboot animation.

How to Reboot a Windows 10 or Windows 8 Computer

The “normal” way to reboot a computer running Windows 10/8 is through the Start menu:

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. Click or tap the Power button (Windows 10) or Power Options button (Windows 8).
  3. Choose Restart.

The second is a little faster and doesn’t require the full Start menu:

  1. Open the Power User Menu by pressing the WIN (Windows) key and X.
  2. In the Shut down or sign out menu, choose Restart.

How to Reboot a Windows 7, Vista, or XP Computer

The quickest way to reboot Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP is through the Start menu:

  1. Click the Start button on the taskbar.
  2. If you’re using Windows 7 or Vista, click the small arrow next to the right of the “Shut down” button.Windows XP users should click the Shut Down or Turn Off Computer button.
  3. Choose Restart.

How to restart your Apple PC

To restart your computer, you have three choices:

  • Press the power button (or press Control+Eject) and, when a dialog box appears, click the Restart button.
  • Choose the Apple key and then click Restart.
  • Press Control+Command+Eject (or Control+Command+Power button).

 

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