March 28, 2009

A Response To "Why Can't Windows Shutdown Properly"

An article written by Larry Magid and posted on CNET today complains about a problem with the Windows Operating system  win95taking too long to shutdown and start up. And while I agree that there are times Windows moves too slowly, I also have to point out that the reason is rarely Windows.

The first thing you have to understand is what actually happens when Windows is shutdown. If the only thing installed on a computer is the Windows Operating system, then all that needs to happen for the computer to shutdown is:

  1. Anything in RAM that will be needed later is written to the hard drive.
  2. All open files are closed
  3. All Services required to run the computer are stopped
  4. Power to the hardware is stopped and the computer is now shutdown.

This process doesn't change very much even after other software is installed, but what does change is what files need to be closed, what need to be written to the hard drive, and what services need to be stopped. This is where the problem comes in.

Think about what is running on your computer right now, you probably think "oh...just my Internet browser", and chances are, you are probably wrong (at least, you should be wrong)

On a typical computer the following types of software are installed, and at least a portion of them are running in the background (i.e. they aren't being actively used by the user)

  1. Antivirus software - this is a good thing by the way.
  2. Instant messaging software (I have 2 different IM services running, 1 for work, 1 for personal use)
  3. File indexing software (things like Microsoft Desktop Search or Google Desktop)
  4. Quicktime/iTunes services
  5. Software update services (used to update various pieces of software installed, and there can be several services depending on the software)
  6. Viruses (most computers I work on have AT LEAST 1 piece of Malware or a virus)

So when you shutdown a computer, Windows must go through each one of these and stop them from running, when they are told to stop, they all go through their own processes to store data, close files, and end services. If there is a problem with the software, it may hang, and you will see that wonderful "Program not responding" error. This happens frequently when several things are trying to close at once because they are trying to access similar resources. If any of these programs have trouble closing, Widows can't shutdown.

So why can't Windows just force a program closed and move on? Well, it is because if Windows just started forcing applications close, files that are being written to, or things that have not been saved yet can become corrupt or deleted, and that would cause even more problems.

Windows being slow to start is caused by the exact same thing. All of that stuff you have auto starting can cause problems, and many of the hang ups experienced are caused by other programs not starting properly.

The number 1 cause of these slowdowns are viruses and malware. Most software like this is not written to be efficient, they don't take standard coding 'rules' into account and are very rarely thoroughly tested. Because of this, they cause all kinds of problems, and the authors don't have to answer to anyone since the software shouldn't be installed in the first place. Pirated software that has been tampered with is also a major cause of these kinds of errors, as well as running software when your computer does not meet the required hardware specifications. Now, this isn't to say that Windows is always perfect, because it is not, but considering how universally used it is and how much different software can run on it, it is almost impossible to make sure it is 100% perfect all the time.

Oh...and if you are thinking about comparing it to a Mac, please think about the total combinations of hardware/software available to work on a computer running Windows, and what's available for your Mac. There is no comparison, and because of that, you cant fairy compare the problems they have.

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