Why restarting something tends to fix most problems

Usually it is something like this:

YOU: “So I’m having this problem with my…”
TECH SUPPORT: “Did you reset it?”
YOU: “….”

Few things cause more of an uproar than being told to restart something, whether it’s your computer, your smartphone, your TV, or whatever other technology we’re talking about.

Most of us are used to hearing it by now. Most of the people we help have already rebooted their computer (or whatever) before they talk to us, and others tend to slap their hands on their foreheads, surprised that they’ve forgotten this technological panacea.

Other people almost seem offended when they hear it as if they have somehow been insulted by this too simple to be useful advice.

But guess that? It actually works! We estimate that more than half of the technology issues we see from our customers and readers can be fixed with a simple reboot.

Why restarting something works so well

Now that the part of this that actually works is out of the way, it begs the question: why does it work?

Let’s start by talking about what happens when the equipment is running:

Programs are opened, programs are closed, maybe even software or applications are installed and uninstalled. Sometimes programs like your Internet browser are open for hours, or even days, at a time. Many other things stop and start too – things that never see themselves.

Are you picturing that time-lapse montage of your computer use in your head right now? It’s a little crazy, we know. We use our computers a lot, especially over the course of several days or more.

What you may not realize is that much of what you and your operating system do is leave some kind of footprint, usually in the form of background processes that you no longer need to run, or programs that were not closed. altogether.

These “leftovers” hog your system resources, usually your RAM. If a lot of that happens, you start to have problems, such as a slow system, programs that no longer open, error messages… whatever is.

When you restart your computer, all programs and processes are terminated when power is removed from the computer during the restart process.

Once the computer starts up again, it’s a clean slate and a clean slate, and in most cases, a faster, better-performing computer.

Restarting your computer is the same as restarting or shutting down and then turning it on manually. Rebooting is not the same as rebooting , which is a much larger process and typically means wiping everything and returning it to “factory defaults”.

See How do I restart my computer? if you are not sure how to properly restart your Windows PC. If you are really interested in restarting your computer, read on… We talk about that more in the last section.

Reboot also works on other devices

This same logic applies to other devices that are not called computers, but actually are.

Devices like your television, smartphone, modem, router, DVR, home security system, digital camera, (etc, etc, etc) all have tiny operating systems and software that run into the same problems as your PC sometimes it does. It even happens at the Hubble Space Telescope.

Rebooting these devices is usually as easy as turning the power off for several seconds and then turning it back on. In other words: unplug it and then plug it back into .

See How to Reset Anything if you need help specific to this device.

Frequent restarts are probably a sign of a bigger problem

Needing to restart your computer on occasion is perfectly normal, especially if you’re doing the kind of work that requires a lot of interaction with the operating system, like updating drivers, installing updates, reinstalling software, and so on.

Beyond that though, you may be experiencing issues that a reboot is only temporarily fixing for you. A hardware component may be failing, important Windows files may be corrupted, or you may have a malware infection.

In those cases, follow the instructions for whatever solution makes sense for the exact problem. System File Checker with the scan now switch is often a good thing to try, and of course a full system malware scan is almost always in order.

As mentioned above, resetting typically means a true reset, often returning the device to the same state as the day you took it out of the box. This option is also available as a last resort for Windows – it’s called Reset this PC.

See Reset this PC: A complete walkthrough if you run out of other options and think this is what you want to try next.