Clean Computers

 Better yet, put some Windex on your IT

Why does tech support ask you to reboot (or restart) your machine when troubleshooting almost every time you call to troubleshoot the problem with your computer, printer, or any other smart device? “Restart your computer” seems to be a go-to solution for your computer technicians, sort of like “Put Windex on in” for Gus from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

“Put Some Windex On It!” – Restart your PC

It may look like a quick “don’t know what your problem is, but I hope this restart will sort it out” strategy, but in reality, there are some good technical reasons for restarting your machine.

Did you know that over time your operating system gathers “leftover” digital junk, such as page files, temp (temporary) files intermittently used by running applications, disk caches, open file descriptors, Zombie Processes, and other mess that hangs around even after you have closed the apps that created them, for days or weeks, until you restart your system.

Tech Lingo Explained: Zombie Process is a defunct computer process that has completed execution but still has an entry in the process table. It is essentially a process in the “Terminated state.”

When these type of junk builds up in your computer, it starts to slow down your entire system over time. If you experience driver crashes or software malfunctions, you can also experience issues with your WiFi connectivity.

Putting your laptop or desktop computer to sleep or hibernate mode is not enough.

Hibernation will not solve the issue, because sleep mode still uses enough power to keep the system’s state in memory. While most parts of the computer are shut down to preserve the battery life, but the disk caches, temp files and more remain intact, leading to zombie processes and memory leaks. Additionally sleep mode does not take care of important security patches and updates!

Let’s review basic reasons for restarting your computer:

  • During the troubleshooting session with your Tech Support specialist, we need to get connected remotely to your computer. If it is hanging or freezing, or the computer network driver has failed, a technician typically requests a restart/reboot to get us connected to your system so we can work on the issue at hand.
  • System performance gradually decreases over a period of time (remember those zombie processes?) If you did not restart your computer in the last 72 days, it’s just a matter of short time period now before your machine freezes to a halt.
  • Memory leak – a type of resource leak when a computer program mismanages memory allocations – can eat up your system’s resources. In such case restarting your machine clears out the RAM (Random Access Memory) and gets everything back to working order.
  • Most important reason to restart your computer: Cybersecurity! The security patches, system, and application updates cannot be applied unless and until you restart. Both security and feature patches are meant to fix or improve your system’s and your software’s performance. Cybercriminals are able to create and implement zero-day vulnerability exploits in less than 24 hours, so if your security patches and feature updates have not been installed and “activated” by a restart, your system can be compromised at any time.

What is a Restart Process?

And a follow-up question: Boot, Reboot, Start, Restart? What’s up with all the techno-lingo?

Boot and Reboot are the same as Start and Restart. Boot is just more IT industry-specific of a phrase than a Start. So let’s stick with Start/Restart for simplicity.

  • You Start the machine when it was physically turned off, by physically pushing the Power button on your computer. Start process loads an operating system and starts the initial processes, from the powered-off state.
  • You Restart the machine when it was already on, and you select restart command to give it a fresh start: ideally you want to do a Warm Restart: when you manually navigate to the Restart option from your taskbar. When your computer is not responding at all, you can perform a Cold Restart by manually pushing the Power button to turn your computer off, and then after a few seconds pushing the Power button again to manually turn your machine on again. In technical terms, Restart is typically necessary after activities that affect system functionality make changes to the computer’s registry and after a Restart your computer runs with the new registry entries.

When to restart your computer?

When your tech support specialist asks for a restart, it’s a no-brainer. But in other scenarios, when should you do it?

Most of the time, when your systems are set up properly, your patches and updates are installed for you – but not all of them can be applied without a restart. Some of the changes require a force restart, while others just “request” a restart now versus a restart later. Admit it: some times you brush it off because we are all too busy during the day, and we opt for a later And sometimes that later takes place A LOT, like weeks, later.

Practical Advice: Remember, an improper shutdown is the main cause of disc corruption, and should not be commonly used. Avoid Cold Reboot (shuttting your computer down from the power source) if you can, and only resort to if all else fails.

Remember, all of the activities we discussed above benefit from a Restart process.

How to Perform a Warm Reboot:
  1. In your taskbar menu, go to Start
  2. Choose Turn Off your Computer > Restart.
Alternative option:
  1. In your taskbar menu, go to Start
  2. Choose Turn Off your Computer > Turn Off
  3. Wait at least 10-20 second
  4. Now Start your computer manually by pushing a power button on your desktop.

So, next time we ask you to restart, remember, we want to rule out issues that may have been caused by lack of restart in the past, ant to get you working again as soon as possible. You may even want to restart your computer before you call your tech support.

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