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Factors Contributing to Slow Windows Shutdown
Windows shutdown is slow because there are several processes that initiate as soon as as a shutdown or restart is requested. These processes include closing all open handles to different applications you have already closed or to any open applications. It also includes closing background processes.
Handles are connections between RAM, CPU, or any other part of computer that communicate with different applications you used during the session. It is not allways necessary that when you close an application, the handles will also close immediately. Some handles close after performing specific tasks such as saving information about your MS Office preferences. Some improperly coded applications (e.g. Sound Forge) often forget to un-mount the drivers they load into RAM. Windows takes care of all this when you initiate the close command.
This is one of the primary reasons why you experience extreme slowdown of a computer after working on some applications that compel you to restart the computer. Windows tries to close them when you initiate the shutdown or restart process. You can see a dialog box titled "Closing <program name>"and showing a progress bar attempting to close an application. Most of the times you end up with the dialog saying "<program name> is not responding", offering you buttons: End Now and Cancel. You manually close the program clicking on the End Now button.
Windows Shutdown is slow also because it saves current profile settings (desktop, screensavers, start menu, taskbars, keyboard, etc), clears the pagefile (if configured to do so), and performs other additional tasks before switching your computer OFF. Since we know why shutdown is slow, we can consider different tweaks to increase Windows' shutdown speed.
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Tweaking the Registry Editor - Smoother Windows Shutdown
There are a few things that you can do to increase Windows shutdown speed. The first among them is to keep a simple desktop - without many active pages and complex start menu. You may also select NOT to Save Settings at Exit. This will increase Windows shutdown speed significantly. You can set this using GPEDIT.MSC in Windows Professional Edition. If you are using something else, you may download and use Windows Tweak Powertoy to increase Windows shutdown speed.
Other than these, the main problem that needs to be addressed is unattended faster Windows shutdown. We will be tweaking the registry editor to achieve this. First of all, you need to keep a check on if Windows is set to kill an application (AutoEndTasks). The second is how long Windows should wait before trying to close an application automatically (HungAppTimeout). Finally, we'll have to set how long Windows should wait before killing the process if it is not responding, so that you do not have to click the End Now button (WaitToKillAppTimeOut). For tweaking Windows Registry to increase Windows shutdown speed:
1 Open the Registry Editor by typing RegEdit in RUN dialog box.
2. We will be tweaking the registry editor for the above mentioned strings under HKEY_CURRENT_USER and HKEY_USERS. Though you can search for all these three strings manually (under the Desktop key), I recommend using the Find option. Please note that the key Desktop, appears three times under HKEY_USERS. So you will have to edit each of these strings, fours times.
3. Select the MyComputer icon in registry and select Edit -> Find.
4. In the Find dialog, type in AutoEndTasks. Hit Enter. The Find command searches for the first occurrence of the string. You find the other two entries also - in the right pane.
5. Double click AutoEndTasks and set the value to 1. Set HungAppTimeOut to 500 and WaitToKillAppTimeOut to 1000. These changes reduce wait time to increase Windows shutdown speed. You may reduce the values further down - at the risk of system instability. These are the minimum values - tested on a 512MB, 1GHZ, XP machine.
6. Press F3 to Find Next occurrence of the strings. Repeat step 5 for each of the four occurrences.
Close Regedit and initiate shutdown to see the increase in Windows shutdown speed!
Note: Before tweaking the registry editor to fix slow Windows shutdown, create a restore point so that you can rollback if anything goes wrong.
Related Reading: Tweaking the Registry Editor to Increase Windows Startup Speed
Tweaking Windows Registry to Increase Windows Shutdown Speed
Tweaking the registry editor allows you more control over your machine and OS. This Guide helps you learn tweaking the registry editor to acheive the following: increase Windows Startup speed; increase Windows Shutdown, XP Registry Keys Best Backup Method ; and creating custom context menu;