Why Does Turning A Computer Off And On Again Work?
Popularised by British sitcom The IT Crowd and now something of a cliché in the professional world, ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ is a question synonymous with IT support. Turning it off and on again has become so ingrained in our society, that most people will try it when having problems with personal devices like mobile phones, but why does turning a device off and then turning it back on again, sometimes work and resolve the issues you were having?
The answer is surprisingly simple. Without wanting to get too technical electronic devices are what is known as state-based machines. The input you give a device will determine which state it switches to.
In modern computers and laptops, lots of things are going on at any one time. However, when your computer plays up, it will often just be one programme struggling, or two conflicting commands that confuse the machine with regards to which ‘state’ it should be in. By turning the machine off and on again, you take it back to the initial state, in which it can start everything over. This is why it will often work and resolve issues. Everything starts again from fresh.
Should you turn your computer off and on again or restart it?
When the IT Crowd popularised the phrase ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ doing so, or using the restart function did largely the same thing. Whichever you decided to do, would usually return the computer to its initial state, so it could in effect start again.
However, today you’re much more likely to hear an IT engineer ask you to restart your computer, not ask you to turn it off and on again. This is a very specific instruction, because beneath the bonnet, turning a computer off and restarting a computer, do two different things, and it might not be what you expect.
In our need to make life more efficient, modern computers have started to utilise fast start up technology. This allows us to use our devices quickly, even after they’ve been turned off.
To ensure your computer can start quickly, allowing you to get on with your work, it doesn’t disable all of the processes from the previous session when you turn it off. Again, not wishing to get too technical, but shutting down your computer doesn’t shut off what’s called the Windows kernel. This is the core element of your operating system. It ensures that software (your programmes) and hardware (your computer) can work together. The Windows kernel is saved to the machine each time you turn it off so it can load up quickly the next time you turn it on.
In contrast, and perhaps strangely given the language used, restarting a device actually turns everything off, including all processes and most importantly the kernel too. It means that you’re going back to that initial state again and running everything from new. This is why you often need to restart your device after installing new software for the first time. It may seem a little confusing, given the cliché is to turn the computer off and on again, which is why our IT engineers will always explain precisely what it is they’d like you to do when helping with a problem.
Why have I been asked to unplug my computer from the power entirely?
Sometimes an engineer will ask you to turn a computer off. When they do so, it’s most likely to be one that requires mains power such as a desktop computer. When they do, they’re likely to ask if you can switch it off at the mains power and unplug it entirely from the wall. This is because unplugging the machine entirely has the same effect as restarting it. It’s all about taking the computer back to that initial state.
When we make these requests to disconnect the computer completely from the power, we want to ensure that the device is fully powered off. Electronic devices may still have a small amount of power flowing through them shortly after being powered down, so by ensuring the plug is removed for a short period of time, we can be sure that the computer has been completely turned off. This essentially forces that device to return to its initial state when it’s next turned on, in all likelihood resolving your issue.
IT support from Acronyms.
Unfortunately, not all IT issues can be resolved by simply turning your computer off and on again. Sometimes, even a restart won’t solve your problem. When this is the case it’s important to have expertise and experience at hand that can resolve the issue for you. This is where Acronyms come in.
Our team of IT engineers can provide you and your business with an outsourced IT team, ready to tackle any issues as they arise. Your staff can call, email or raise a ticket with our engineers, and we’ll get things fixed for you. Additionally, our team can manage your network, proactively looking for the cause of likely issues, in order to stop that happening in the first place.
If you’d like to discuss our services and see how they might help you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Alternatively, you may wish to arrange a no-obligation consultation to better understand where we may be of assistance.