Ask LH: How Can I Avoid Rebooting My Computer All The Time?

Ask LH: How Can I Avoid Rebooting My Computer All The Time?

Dear Lifehacker, I feel like I have to reboot my Windows PC all the time, either because I’ve installed new software or because Windows is always updating. This wouldn’t be a huge deal, but my computer takes a while to reboot. Anything I can do to avoid the hassle? Signed, Stressed by Shutdowns

Dear Stressed,

We feel your pain. We’ve discussed why Windows always wants to reboot before, but the short version goes like this: often, when you install software or update Windows, that program needs to change some core system files or files that are in use, so it has to do it the next time you reboot. However, some programs will tell you to restart even when you don’t have to. In those cases, you can sometimes get around them by logging out or by restarting explorer.exe. If not, you can always make rebooting a little less painful. Here are a few ways to deal with those two situations.

Avoiding Reboots Altogether


Sometimes, your computer doesn’t actually need to reboot, even if a program tells you it does. A good way to check and see if a program actually requires a reboot is to use previously mentioned WhyReboot. It’s a small, portable app that will let you know if Windows is set to run any operations on the next restart. If it says “No items were found”, it’s likely that you don’t need to reboot at all. Note, however, that if you installed something like a new driver, WhyReboot might not be able to detect that, so you should be safe and reboot.

When it comes to Windows Update, you’ll definitely need to reboot to let it finish the updating process. However, if you’re sick of Windows Update restarting your computer without prompting you, you can disable the auto-reboot feature and restart on your own terms.

Other times, you don’t need to do a full reboot; logging off will suffice. In other cases, like if you’ve tweaked the registry, all you need to do is restart explorer.exe. The best way to do this is to open the Start menu, hold Ctrl and Shift down, and right click on any empty space in the Start menu. You’ll see an “Exit Explorer” option that will safely quit Windows Explorer. After that, you can just hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete, go to the Task Manager, hit File > New Task, and type in explorer to start it back up. This will restart Explorer without quitting any of your running programs.

Unfortunately, these don’t apply in every situation. When in doubt, do a full reboot to ensure everything works correctly, unless you’ve researched the specific program or tweak and know one of the above will suffice. Luckily, if you have to reboot, there are a few ways to make it less annoying.

Make Rebooting Less of a Pain

Just because you have to reboot doesn’t mean it needs to be awful. Previously mentioned Soluto is a great way to stop unnecessary programs from launching on every startup, which can significantly lower your boot time.

Another good option is to use previously mentioned Cache My Work to save your current session when you reboot. That way, if you have to interrupt your work to reboot, you can make sure all your currently running programs start right back up when you reboot. Make sure you save your work first, though, since Cache My Work only restarts those programs — it won’t save your work for you.

You can never fully rid yourself of Windows reboots, but you can do a lot to make the process less annoying. Hopefully these suggestions can help you out, and you won’t grimace every time you get that dreaded “Restart Now” message.

Cheers, Lifehacker

P.S. Got any tips for avoiding unnecessary reboots on Windows, or just ways to make it less painful? Share them in the comments.


  • Drivers aside, I can’t think of a case where I’ve really had to reboot from a third-party software install in years. I think a lot of coders just lazily hardcode this into their setup routines.

    For software that updates frequently, I think using is the least painful way of handling the installs as it suppresses all the unnecessary user dialogs that really take more time than a reboot. Even with 15 or so packages in a ninite install, I don’t get reboot requests at the end of the sequence.

  • One easy trick to minimise boot time is to boot into your bios and change the boot order to boot from your HDD first. By default it usually tries the optical drive or USB first, which takes time. My machine saves about 10 seconds with this change. If you want to boot from another device, you’ll have to change the settings back before you can, but unless you’re constantly booting from USB or DVD, I think it’s worth the extra step when you do.

  • start > run > enter ‘msconfig’ > ‘startup’ tab

    Anything that’s ticked will run on windows startup and hence will each add several seconds to the time you have to wait for your computer to be useable. Untick anything you don’t use everytime you use windows.

    The only thing i let run on startup is my antivirus.

    A lot of programs have parts of their program run on start up to make the starting of their program quicker. This is stupid, if i want to run that program i’ll wait for it to start. I’m not going to wait that little bit longer EVERYTIME i start windows to make a program i MIGHT use start a little faster.

    My computer is useable within seconds of my desktop being visable, there’s no reason why yours shouldn’t be too.

  • I know the response this will get, but … Buy a Mac. I can go so long between reboots I can’t remember the last one. And that includes installing software and updates. ( ps I know that doesn’t help, but…)

    • Aah yes. And even though you knew the response you’d get, you wrote that anyway. Helpful.

      I’m a techie, I read tech things like Lifehacker, Slashdot. Perhaps I should get some different hobbies. Do angling forums have:
      “Which bait should I use to catch trout?”
      “Stop fishing, go to Coles and buy a steak, it’s tastier”?

  • how do i get the internet that wont go on like not responding u have to wait ten mins and then go again and it over or internet not working what is the best thing to do for that i can’t aford buying any spyware at this time i thought to do reboot the computer like new again and i would have no trouble with it thank you,

  • An idea doesn’t stop the reboots, but it does make them less painful…

    BootSnooze will do a reboot, then wait a selectable time and either hibernate or standby.

    So, postpone your reboot until you’ve finished with the PC for awhile, then let it reboot and (usually) hibernate, ready for a quick wake-up next time.

  • Surely there’s some software or something to stop the pc from auto rebooting. It’s all well and good being able to add the software you want into ‘startup’ but I have a different issue. I’m a crypto nerd and run lots of wallets doing staking/minting, and every time my pc reboots, i have to go back into every wallet and enter my password to “unlock for staking/minting”. It’s getting annoying now… I just want to stop my pc from automatically rebooting. Surely there is something out there to prevent this!?

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