How to Properly Reboot (Restart) a Windows Computer

Reboot the right way by choosing 'Restart' in the Start menu

What to Know

  • For Windows 11, 10 & 8, use the power icon from the Start menu to select Restart.
  • For Windows 7 and Vista, open the small arrow from the Start menu, and select Restart.
  • You can also restart your PC from Ctrl+Alt+Del, or with the shutdown /r command.

There's a right way, and several wrong ways, to reboot (restart) a computer. It's not an ethical dilemma—only one method ensures that problems don't pop up after you restart.

How to Reboot a Computer


To safely restart a Windows computer, open the Start menu and choose the Restart option. Below are detailed directions if you need them.

These instructions can be followed on Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP. See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure which of those several versions of Windows is installed on your computer.

How to Reboot a Windows 11, 10, or 8 Computer

The "normal" way to reboot a computer running Windows 11/10/8 is through the Start menu:

  1. Open the Start menu.

  2. Select the power icon at the bottom (Windows 11/10) or top (Windows 8) of the screen.

    Windows 11 restart button
    Start menu (Windows 11).
  3. Select Restart.

Using the Power User Menu

This second method is a little faster and doesn't require the full Start menu:

  1. Open the Power User Menu by pressing the Win (Windows) key and X.

  2. Go to Shut down or sign out.

    Power User Menu restart button for Windows 11
    Power User Menu (Windows 11).
  3. Select Restart.

The Windows 8 Start screen functions differently from the Start menus in other versions of Windows. Install a Windows 8 Start menu replacement to return the Start screen to a legacy-looking menu and have easier access to the restart option.

How to Reboot a Windows 7, Vista, or XP Computer

The quickest way to reboot Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP is through the Start menu:

  1. Open the Start menu from the taskbar.

  2. In Windows 7 and Vista, select the small arrow next to the right of the Shut down button.

    Windows 7 restart button
    Windows 7 Shut Down Options.

    In Windows XP, select Shut Down or Turn Off Computer.

  3. Choose Restart.

How to Restart a Computer With Ctrl+Alt+Del

Use the Ctrl+Alt+Del keyboard shortcut to open the shutdown dialog box in all versions of Windows. This approach is an optional method that works just as well as using the Start menu or the Start screen.

The screens look different depending on which version of Windows you're using, but each of them gives the option to restart the computer:

  • Windows 11, 10, and 8: Choose the power icon on the bottom right of the screen to find the Restart option.
Shutdown options in the Ctrl+Alt+Del screen in Windows 11
  • Windows 7 and Vista: Select the arrow next to the red power button in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, then select Restart.
Restart button from the Windows 7 Ctrl+Alt+Del screen
  • Windows XP: Select Shut Down from the menu, and then Restart.
Screenshot showing how to restart Windows XP from Task Manager

How to Restart a Computer With Alt+F4

This is another keyboard shortcut, but you have to be careful with it!

Close all open windows so that you're on the Desktop. Select a blank area on the Desktop, and type Alt+F4. On the menu that pops up, choose Restart, and then OK.

Shut Down Windows prompt

It's important to focus on the Desktop before entering these keys. If you do this with a window in focus, it will simply close down the window.

How to Restart Windows From Command Prompt

Restart Windows through Command Prompt using the shutdown command.

  1. Open Command Prompt and enter the following command:

    shutdown /r
    shutdown r command in Windows 10

    ​The /r parameter specifies that it should restart the computer instead of just shut it down (which is what happens when /s is used).

  2. Wait while the computer restarts.

The same restart command can be used from the Run dialog box (Win+R).

Restart PC With a Batch File or Shortcut

To restart a computer with a batch file, enter the same command. Something like this will restart the computer in 60 seconds:

shutdown /r -t 60

The same command can be tied to a Desktop shortcut, if you'd rather not go through the process of creating a BAT file. Right-click the Desktop, go to New > Shortcut, and enter the command as it's written above.

Read more about the shutdown command here, which explains other parameters that specify things like forcing programs to shut down and canceling an automatic shutdown.

"Reboot" Doesn't Always Mean "Reset"

Be careful if you see the option to reset something. Restarting, also known as rebooting, is also sometimes called resetting. However, the term resetting is also often used synonymously with a factory reset, meaning a complete wipe-and-reinstall of a system, something very different from a restart and not something you want to take lightly.

See Reboot vs Reset: What's the Difference? for more information.

Factory reset Windows with Reset This PC if a reboot doesn't solve the problem.

  • Why do computers need to restart after updates?

    When you install an update, your computer needs to replace certain files, But, it can't replace those files while they're in use. Restarting your computer allows it to make whatever changes are necessary to properly install the update.

  • Where is the computer's restart button?

    On most modern computers, the Power button is used to restart the device. You can usually find it on the top right or top left of your laptop keyboard or on the front of your PC's tower. Press and hold it for a few seconds until the computer reboots.

  • How do you remotely shut down a computer?

    Open Command Prompt as an administrator, then type shutdown /m \\[your computer's name] /s. Add a /f to the end of the command if you want to force all apps to quit on the remote computer. Use /c if you want to add a message (for example: /c "This computer will shut down momentarily. Please save all work.")

  • How do you make computers restart on a schedule?

    If your computer needs to restart to finish installing an update, you can schedule when that happens by going into Windows Update and choosing Schedule the Restart. You can also use Windows Task Scheduler to create an automated task that restarts the machine. Open the app, choose Create Basic Task, and follow the on-screen instructions to set it up.

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