Microsoft Windows does not shut down

Updated: 01/24/2018 by Computer Hope

Note: Windows 98 users may experience a hang because of known problems with Windows 98.

Windows shut down screensBefore beginning to troubleshoot this issue, it is important to determine if it is merely a random occurrence. When occurring randomly, it may be difficult to troubleshoot or determine where the problem exists. Before assuming that the issue is resolved, make sure to complete the steps and shut down the computer two to three times before assuming it's fixed.

Open program or TSR is not able to close

The most common cause of a computer locking up, or not displaying the message "it is safe to turn off your computer," is a program not closing correctly. To determine if this is what is causing your issue, End Task all currently running programs.

If, after doing this, you can successfully shutdown your computer, it is likely that a program such as a virus protection program may not be closing successfully. You need to determine what program is causing this issue, reinstall it, and obtain the latest update for this program.

Note: After rebooting your computer, all of the programs or TSRs that you End Task will automatically load again.

Incompatibility, corrupt or damaged driver

Drivers loaded for any hardware device that are incompatible, corrupt or damaged can cause the computer to lockup when shutting down.

  1. Verify that the Windows Device Manager does not have any conflicts or issues present. Additional information about Device Manager can be found on our Device Manager page.
  2. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, double-click on System and click the Performance tab, ensure that the third line "File System" is 32-bit and not MS-DOS mode. If your file system is running in MS-DOS mode, it is likely that MS-DOS drivers are loading and causing your issues. If your system is running in MS-DOS mode, refer to the section on the autoexec.bat and config.sys.

Temporary files

Temporary files can cause issues with the way your computer operates, especially when the computer has several hundred of these files. Follow the instructions below for removing any temporary files from the computer.

  1. If any programs are currently open, close them.
  2. Click Start > Find > Files or Folders
  3. In the name box, type *.tmp
  4. In the look in box, ensure it is the C drive
  5. Click the Find now button.
  6. Once completed, if any files are present, click Edit and then Select all files.
  7. Once all the files are highlighted, press delete on the keyboard.

Hard drive full, has errors or needs defragged

Verify that the hard drive has over 200 MB of free hard drive space. To do this follow the instructions below.

  1. Double-click My Computer.
  2. Right-click on the "C: Drive" and select Properties.
  3. Within the General tab, ensure that the Free space is equal to or greater then 200 MB

Verify that your hard drive has no errors by running ScanDisk and that it is not fragmented by running defrag.

  • Additional information about ScanDisk can be found on our ScanDisk page.
  • Additional information about defrag can be found on our Defrag page.

APM (Advanced Power Management issue)

APM can cause shutdown issues. Follow the steps below to determine if APM is causing your issue.

  1. Click Start > Settings > Control Panel, and double-click the Systems icon.
  2. Click the Device Manager tab and click the + next to System devices.
  3. Double-click on Advanced Power Management. If not present, skip to the next paragraph.
  4. In Power Management, click the settings tab, and then click the Enable Power Management check box to clear it.

If this resolves your issue, contact your computer or motherboard manufacturer for a possible update. If this does not resolve your issue or Advanced Power Management was not present in the Device Manager, disable this setting in your CMOS setup.

If, after disabling the APM in CMOS, your issue is resolved, contact your computer or motherboard manufacturer for a possible update or BIOS update.

Virtual device driver issue

To determine if a virtual device driver is causing your issue follow the steps below.

  1. Click Start, Run, and in the run line type sysedit.
  2. In the System Configuration Editor locate the system.ini window.
  3. In the System.ini window locate the section [386Enh] section.
  4. Within this section place a semicolon ( ; ) in front of any line beginning with device= and ending with .386.
  5. Once completed, Exit out of the System Configuration Editor and save changes.
  6. Reboot computer and see if issue persists.

If this does not solve the issue, edit the system.ini file and remove the semicolons that you added. Then, add only one semicolon before the first device= line. Reboot, and see if the problem has been resolved. If not, edit system.ini and remove the semicolon, placing a semicolon in front of the next device= line instead. Reboot the computer. Repeat this process until the problem is fixed.

Corrupt shutdown sound or issue with sound drivers

If you have sounds enabled to play a sound when your computer shuts down, ensure that this is not causing your issue by temporarily disabling it. To do this, follow the steps found below.

  1. Click Start > Settings > Control Panel and in Control Panel, double-click the sounds icon.
  2. Within the sounds window, locate "exit Windows".
  3. If "exit Windows" has a small sound icon ( Sound icon ) next to it, highlight "exit Windows" and under name, select (none). Click Apply and Ok, then shutdown Windows.

If this resolves your issue, try a different sound. If that sound works, your original sound file may be corrupt. If so, this can cause Windows to freeze. However, if all sound files exhibits the same issue, we recommend you download the latest drivers from your sound card manufacturer, and install them. Sound drivers can be found on our sound drivers page.

DOS driver, configuration error or confliction in the autoexec.bat and config.sys

If you're using Windows, verify that a line in your autoexec.bat or config.sys is not causing issues by temporarily renaming the files. To do this, follow the instructions below.

  1. In Windows, click Start, Run, and in the run line type command.
  2. In the MS-DOS command prompt window, type:
    cd\ <press enter>
    ren autoexec.bat autoexec.ch <press enter>
    ren config.sys config.ch <press enter>
    exit <press enter>
  3. Once the above has been completed, reboot the computer and determine if the issue has been resolved.

If issue as not been resolved, you can revert your changes to autoexec.bat and config.sys. To do so, reverse the above two lines so they read ren autoexec.ch autoexec.bat and ren config.ch config.sys.

If your issue is resolved by renaming the autoexec.bat and config.sys files, you can leave these files renamed as they are not needed by Windows. If you prefer, you can rename them back to their original file names and locate the line causing the computer to not shutdown. To do this, place REM in front of all lines and reboot the computer. Once back in Windows remove one REM statement, reboot, and continue process until you determine what line is causing your issue.

Internet Explorer 4.01

If Internet Explorer 4.01 is installed on the computer your computer may hang when attempting to shutdown with the Windows desktop update component installed. To determine the version of Internet Explorer currently installed and resolve this issue if running 4.01, follow the steps below.

Determining version of Internet Explorer.

  1. Open Internet Explorer.
  2. Click "Help," then "About."

If you are running Internet Explorer 4.01 follow one of the below solutions to resolve this issue.

Delete network mappings.

  1. Double-click My computer on the desktop.
  2. right-click on one of the network drives and click disconnect.
  3. Shut down the computer.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until issue is resolved.

Remove desktop update component

  1. Click Start, Settings, and then Control Panel.
  2. Double-click Add Remove Programs.
  3. Click Internet Explorer 4.0 in the list of installed programs and click Add/Remove.
  4. Select "Remove the Windows Desktop Update component, but keep the Internet Explorer 4.0 Web Browser," and click ok.

Norton antivirus 'Load Auto-Protect at startup' issue

Norton antivirus may cause the computer to hang at a blinking cursor when shutting down Windows. To resolve this issue, follow the instructions below.

  1. Double-click the Norton antivirus icon in the Systray.
  2. Click the Options button.
  3. Click the Auto-Protect Tab.
  4. Remove the check from 'Load Auto-Protect at startup'.

Additional information