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Have You Tried Turning if Off and On Again?

By , Thursday 12th December 2013 in Windows

If you have ever asked your IT support department to fix a problem you've been having with your computer, chances are they'll ask "Have you tried turning if off and on?"

At first, this may seem like a flippant response, but often rebooting a computer can solve many problems. Why does turning a device off and on again fix so many problems? In addition, why don't they try to identify and fix problems rather than the usual response of "Have You Tried Turning if Off and On Again?"

This applies to everything from Windows computers, Apple Mac and Linux computers to wireless routers, iPads, Android phones, and more.

To illustrate why rebooting a Windows computer can fix so many problems, let us look at the classic problem of a Windows computer - the dreaded blue screen of death.

The blue screen is a message that shows when Windows encounters a low-level error, most likely a problem with a hardware driver or a hardware malfunction. Windows has reached a state where it does not know how to recover, so it halts everything, shows a blue screen and automatically restarts the computer.
BSOD
BSOD

In this instance Windows was unable to fix the cause of the error itself. By restarting, the code can start from square one and should not encounter the same problem again.

More Problems Solved by Turning if Off and On

When Windows is running slow, the most likely cause is a program consuming excessive system resources. Since this is often a one off problem, restarting the computer forces the program to close and all resources freed up.

If you have a problem with your Internet or Wi-Fi Network, the software on your router or modem may have encountered a problem similar to a Windows blue screen. Resetting the router - pressing the reset button or by unplugging the power supply - is a common solution for connection problems as it clears all the memory and resources and the software is able to start again from square one.

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 is quicker, 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.

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About the Author

Tim Trott

Tim is a professional software engineer, designer, photographer and astronomer from the United Kingdom. You can follow him on Twitter to get the latest updates.

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