What If You Don’t Shut Down Your Computer Properly?

by Carson
Shutting down your computer abruptly

Turning your computer off tends to take a while. But what if you’re impatient and forcefully shut down your computer? Well, let’s find out the consequences in this article.

What Is the Process of Shutting Down a Computer?

You might be curious why shutting down your computer could take a minute or two. This is even longer on older computers. That’s because the system is protecting your data.

Sometimes, you see pop-ups when you click the “Shut Down” button. This is because the operating system has to let users save unsaved data. They might also notify you when other users are logged in since they might have unsaved data too!

Then, the operating system tells apps to wrap up and close, and you are logged out, along with other users. When the operating system is ready, it starts to shut down system processes, which disables functions. This is good because when the actual shutdown happens, it won’t be reading or writing data.

Finally, the system sends a signal to the hardware, telling it to power off. On older computers, a message saying that it’s safe to shut down your device will show on your screen, and the user will just press the power button to turn it off.

What if You Don’t Shut Down Your Computer Properly?

Here comes the main question in this article: What if you don’t shut down your computer properly? Well, your data will possibly be corrupted in that case. If an app is writing to the hard drive, but a power outage interrupted it, it won’t retrieve the data since all content on the RAM is erased once it stops receiving power.

This also applies to unsaved work, which only exists in RAM but not the permanent storage device. Although this isn’t as bad as losing the entire file, sometimes the worst just happens. If mistakes are made when saving the file that involves the metadata (data that describes the file), the file might become illegible for the app to read. If you don’t have a handy backup, you might either lose the file for good or end up having to pay (possibly) hundreds of dollars for data recovery.

Other than the processes that are running in the foreground, there are background processes that support the operating system and all the windows that you see. You can look at those processes in the Details tab of the Task Manager.

You can view all processes, including system processes, in the Details tab in the Task Manager
Image Credit: Task Manager, Canva

Keep in mind that these system processes might also be writing to the hard drive. The modified files might be system files if you’re changing some settings or some event logs whenever you’re using your device. Therefore, even if you close all programs before trying to shut down abruptly, you might still have corrupted files on your hard drive.

The Case for Updates, Restores, and Reinstalls

When you’re updating, restoring, or reinstalling your operating system, make sure you don’t shut down your computer suddenly. In these circumstances, the system is writing to system files and registry files, which are essential for the device to conduct everyday operations, such as booting, logging in, and running programs.

If you cut power at just the right time, you might leave system files and registry files half-written. In this case, your computer might not even load the operating system or repair itself after it being powered on again.

Therefore, when these processes are happening, give your computer some time to finish up. These might take up to hours depending on how much information is changed, but the wait is definitely worth it.

When Do You Have to Forcibly Shut Down Your Computer?

Despite its adverse effects, there are some cases where turning off your computer unexpectedly can be beneficial. The most obvious one is when your computer is frozen, and the operating system itself is not responding. In that case, you cannot click Control-Shift-Esc to open the Task Manager and close the offending app, and your only option is to restart your computer.

Another scenario is that if your hard drive is making weird noises. This can indicate a head crash, in which the read-write head of the hard drive comes in contact with the platter that stores all your data. If you hear those sounds, immediately shut down your computer to prevent further damage. If your computer comes into contact with significant amounts of liquid, power down your computer right away.

Moreover, if you suspect that you’re hacked or infected with malware, shut down your computer as soon as possible. This effectively terminates the process of the malware and prevents the malware from spreading to other computers.


In this article, we talked about what happens if you don’t shut down your computer properly. We discussed the process of a system shutdown that protects your information, the potential file corruption caused, and the conditions where a forced shutdown is beneficial.

References and Credits

  1. George Cox. (2019, October 28). What exactly happens when you shut down or sign out of Windows? Retrieved May 30, 2021, from https://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/2019/10/28/pc-periodicals-what-happens-when-you-shut-down-windows-part-1/2485455001/
  2. Dan Gookin. (n.d.). What Happens When You Shut Down a PC. Retrieved May 30, 2021, from https://www.dummies.com/computers/pcs/what-happens-when-you-shut-down-a-pc/
  3. Techquickie. (2017, October 21). What Happens If You Don’t Shut Down Your Computer Properly? Retrieved May 30, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TovcF1j3bE
  4. Cavaleria Com. (2020, June 8). What happens if you don’t shutdown your PC properly. Retrieved May 30, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks9-lrqU1gI

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