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