Are You Restarting Your Computer the Right Way?

Properly reboot a Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, or XP computer

Power button on a computer
© Martin Hospach/Getty Images

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

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To safely restart a Windows computer, select the Start button and then choose the Restart option.

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 10 or Windows 8 Computer

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

  1. Open the Start menu.

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

    Windows 10 restart button
  3. Choose Restart.

The second 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.

    Screenshot showing how to restart Windows 10 from the Power User Menu
  2. Go to Shut down or sign out and pick 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 Start 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. Select the Start button on the taskbar.

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

    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 apporach 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:

Shutdown options in the Ctrl+Alt+Del screen in Windows 10

Windows 10 and 8: Choose the power icon on the bottom right of the screen to find the Restart option.

Restart button from the Windows 7 Ctrl+Alt+Del screen

Windows 7 and Vista: Select the arrow next to the red power button in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, and choose Restart.

Screenshot showing how to restart Windows XP from Task Manager

Windows XP: Choose Shut Down from the menu and then Restart, followed by OK.

How to Restart Windows From a Command Prompt

Restart Windows through Command Prompt using the shutdown command.

shutdown r command in Windows 10
  1. Type this command and press Enter:

    shutdown /r

    ​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. The computer restarts.

Use the shutdown command Run dialog box using the Win+R keyboard 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 

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 than a restart and not something you want to take lightly.

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

How to Reboot Other Devices

It's not just Windows PCs that should be restarted in a certain way to avoid causing issues. See How to Restart Anything for help rebooting all kinds of technology like iOS devices, Linux devices, smartphones, tablets, routers, printers, laptops, eReaders, and more.