With SSDs becoming increasing common, rebooting your PC takes seconds, rather than minutes. But, machines with four-to-eight gigabytes of RAM are even more prevalent, so the temptation to run a multitude of programs, themselves with many open tabs or windows, is great. Operating systems have come a long way in terms of memory management and stability, but occasionally you'll run into an issue that can only be solved with a reboot.
Here are a few ways you can postpone that restart and keep working, at least until a better time presents itself.
Disable/Enable In Device Manager
On my laptop, my TV and its output audio source are usually detected when I plug it in via the HMDI port. But not always. A reboot fixes the problem, but I've found I can just disable the video adaptor and/or the HDMI audio device under "Sound, video and game controllers" and it'll immediately begin working again. If you find a card reader, mouse or similar peripheral is giving you grief, a visit to Device Manager and a quick disable/enable is definitely warranted.
Killing The Windows Desktop Manager Process
With the introduction of hardware-accelerated desktop rendering in Vista and Windows 7, Microsoft's operating system was given a new process -- "dwm.exe", otherwise known as the Desktop Windows Manager. In a nutshell, it handles all desktop-related graphics, including program windows.
If you've ever noticed your desktop acting strangely -- for example, being unable to maximise open windows in the taskbar -- you can attempt to kill the "dwm.exe" process in Task Manager. It'll restart automatically, usually banishing any problems it was causing with it.
Use Unlocker To Move, Delete And Access Locked Files
Before DWM, there was (and still is) Windows Explorer. It's been giving users grief since Windows 95, when it succeeded the aging File Manager. From time to time, files will become locked for mysterious reasons -- despite closing any and all relevant applications that could be using the file, it still remains inaccessible. That's where a neat little program called Unlocker steps in.
Unlocker not only tells you what programs are holding onto a locked file, it can release those locks, saving you the need to reboot. It integrates into the context menu, so you can easily pick the troublesome file and free it up. Worst case scenario, Unlocker will offer to delete the file on the next reboot.
Free Loads Of Memory By Terminating Chrome's Shockwave Plug-In
One of the most memory-hungry Chrome processes is actually the Adobe plug-in responsible for rendering Flash objects. In Chrome, go to Tools -> Task manager and then order the processes by memory in descending order (just click on the "Memory" column twice). As I write this, Shockwave Flash is the main offender, sucking up 1GB (!) of RAM. Instead of restarting Chrome, you can just kill Shockwave. Any videos in open tabs will be terminated also, but it's a fast, easy way of reclaiming memory.
Feel free to suggest your own session-saving tips below, especially for other operating systems.