How to Log off Windows 10

And how it's different from Windows 8 and 7

A row of Microsoft Surface computers running Windows 10

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It's a good idea to completely log out of, and shut down, your computer on a regular basis. But, especially if you're used to previous versions of Windows, there are some slight changes to how you log off Windows 10 that may trip you up. Here's what you need to know.

How to Log off Windows 10 Quickly Using Alt+F4

Alt+F4 is the “Close Current Window” command, but Windows 8 and Windows 10 both also use it to close Windows. This command is context-sensitive, so if you have a program open, it will ask if you want to close that, instead.

A Windows 10 log out menu, opened with Alt+F4
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To use it log out of Windows, press Windows+D to get to your desktop, or simply close any programs you have open, then press Alt+F4 and a window will open asking if you want to shut down, change users, or otherwise log out.

Keep this shortcut in mind in particularly for situations where you want to shut down the computer quickly, like being late to an appointment.

How to Sign out of Windows 10 Using Ctrl+Alt+Del

Since Windows 95, Ctrl+Alt+Del has opened a menu that gives you access to the Task Manager or a set of commands. For Windows 10, as well as 7 and 8, it gives you a list of possible commands. Windows 10 offers the following:

  • Lock: Lets you keep your computer on, with all programs running, but returns it to the password screen. Good for when you need to step away from your computer while it's still doing a task.
  • Switch User: Lets you change to another account, shutting down the work currently being done.
  • Sign Out: This command lets you sign out of Windows immediately, shutting down all programs and returning you to the password screen.
  • Task Manager: This opens the Windows Task Manager.

Only use Ctrl+Alt+Del in the direst of circumstances, such as a computer functioning too slowly to be usable. Signing out of Windows 10 using this method will erase any work you've been doing and you may lose any work you've been doing on browser tabs as well.

How to Log out of Windows 10 Using the Start Menu

Another method is to simply press the Windows key, or select the Windows icon in the lower left hand corner of Windows 10. This will open the Start Menu, and you can select the Power icon, then select Sleep, Shut Down, or Restart.

Sleep will leave your computer running but shut down most power-consuming functions, including the screen; Restart will restart the computer, and Shut Down will shut it down. Again, it will override everything else on the computer, so be sure you want to shut down completely before you do so.

The Start menu in Windows 10
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This is slightly different from the start menu in Windows 7, which uses a “drop-down” button on the lower-right hand side of the menu, and Windows 8, which requires you to select your username to open the shut down menu.

When Everything Else Fails: Use the Hard Switch

If there's a situation where you have to shut the computer off immediately, and nothing at all is working, find the off switch and either turn it off or hold it down. While modern computers rarely have a "hard" switch in the true sense of the word, that is, a switch that shuts off the power source of your computer, generally they're programmed to accept holding down the power button as a similar method.

This should only be used if you have no other options at all since it may ruin your computer. While the risk of this has decreased drastically, to the point where it's unlikely to happen, it's still a risk, and should be treated accordingly.