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

Did you know that there's a right way, and several wrong ways, to reboot (restart) a computer? It's not an ethical dilemma — one method ensures that problems don't happen and a myriad of others are risky, at best.

You certainly could reboot your computer by powering it off and on, swapping out the AC power or battery, or hitting the reset button, but each of those methods is a bit of a "surprise" to your computer's operating system.

The result of that surprise could be nothing if you're lucky, but more likely it could cause issues from file corruption up to the very serious problem of a computer that won't even start!

You might be restarting your computer to get to Safe Mode but a common reason is that you're probably restarting your computer to fix a problem, so be sure you're doing it the right way so you don't end up creating another one.

How to Reboot a Computer


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

As strange as it may sound, the exact method of restarting differs quite a bit between some versions of Windows. Below are detailed tutorials, plus tips on some alternative, but equally safe, ways of restarting.

Before you get started, remember that the power button in Windows typically looks like a vertical line extending out of a full or almost full circle.

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 a lot differently than the Start menus in other versions of Windows. You can install a Windows 8 Start menu replacement to return the Start screen to a traditional 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

You can also use the Ctrl+Alt+Del keyboard shortcut to open the shutdown dialog box in all versions of Windows. This is usually only useful if you can't open Explorer to get to the Start menu.

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

You can also 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 will automatically restart shortly.

The same command can be used in the Run dialog box, which you can open via 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

You can 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 very 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.

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, smartphones, tablets, routers, printers, laptops, eReaders, and more.