While Windows XP doesn’t have anywhere near the number of shutdown problems that plagued earlier versions of Windows, a few things can still trip up the new operating system during the shutdown procedure. I’ll show you how to solve five of the most common XP shutdown problems you’re likely to encounter. You’ll learn how to fix problems caused by the Input Method Editor, open applications, Roxio software, the Nvidia video card, and the power management scheme. I’ll also pass along several tips that you can use to your advantage as you troubleshoot these types of problems.

Input Method Editor hangs on shutdown
If your users need Windows XP for international communication and have an Input Method Editor (IME) installed on their computers, they may discover that Windows XP occasionally hangs when they shut down—especially if the IME is enabled for use in the Welcome screen. In these situations, Windows XP will appear to begin the shutdown procedure normally, but will then hang while displaying the Saving Your Settings message. Once the system hangs, pressing [Ctrl][Alt][Delete] has no effect. Though users can move the mouse pointer, they can’t revive the system.

You can solve this shutdown problem by downloading and installing the Restarting Windows XP update. To download this update, which was released on Feb. 1, 2002, visit the Microsoft Windows Update Web site.

Be aware that Microsoft warns that the current Restarting Windows XP update may undergo more testing in the near future to ensure quality and should only be downloaded by those severely affected by this problem. If the user has an IME but is not experiencing this problem, Microsoft recommends that you wait for the arrival of the Service Pack 1 for Windows XP, which will contain the final Restarting Windows XP update.

Shutdown interrupted by slow process
When a user shuts down, Windows XP gives each process running in the background 20 seconds to close itself before the operating system shuts down the computer. If a process cannot close itself down within that 20-second time-out period, the user will see the Wait, End Task, or Cancel dialog box that alerts them to the problem process and prompts them to choose between waiting another 20 seconds, ending the process, or canceling the shutdown procedure.

Now, if they see this dialog box on a regular basis, chances are that they’re running an application, possibly a proprietary in-house program, that needs more time to properly prepare for a shutdown. You can increase Windows XP’s time-out period by making a small change in the registry.


Since editing the registry can be dangerous, consider performing a full backup before you attempt this operation.

To begin, select Start | Run and launch the Registry Editor by typing Regedit.exe in the Open text box. Once you have the Registry Editor up and running, locate and double-click on the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER. When the subtree is visible, open each of the following subtrees in succession:

  • ·        Control Panel
  • ·        Desktop

Once you open the Desktop key, scroll through the values in that key until you locate the WaitToKillAppTimeout value. Double-click on it to open the Edit String dialog box. The default value in this dialog box is 20000, which is 20 seconds expressed in milliseconds. Once you change the value, click OK, close the Registry Editor, and then restart the system.

I suggest starting with a five-second change and then testing the shutdown procedure to see if this gives the process enough time to properly shut down. If not, try increasing it by two-second intervals until you find a time-out value that works.

Roxio causes restarts on shutdown
When users select the Shut Down command, they may discover that Windows XP restarts instead of shutting down. The first time this happens, users might assume they accidentally selected Restart instead of Shut Down from the drop-down menu in the Shut Down Windows dialog box—a common mistake. However, if it happens repeatedly and a blue STOP error screen appears for just a moment before the system restarts again, the system possibly has a CDR/CDRW drive using Roxio Easy CD Creator version 5.0.

A conflict between the default Roxio 5.0 software and the limited version of the Roxio burn engine built into Windows XP can cause a system failure to occur. When a system failure occurs, Windows XP is configured to automatically restart the system. This problem can be corrected with an update from Roxio. To get the update, point your browser to the Roxio site and head over to the Support page. There, you’ll find links to the Windows XP update for Easy CD Creator 5.


If you wish to disable the automatic restart feature so that you can read the error message on the blue screen, you can do so easily. Right-click on My Computer and select the Properties command from the Shortcut menu. When you see the System Properties dialog box, select the Advanced tab. Then, select the Settings button in the Startup And Recovery panel. Once the Startup And Recovery dialog box appears, clear the Automatically Restart check box in the System Failure panel and click OK.

Nvidia service causes slow shutdown
If a system is using an Nvidia 3-D graphics processor video card with the latest XP drivers from Nvidia, your users may notice that their systems take a long time to shut down. They may be encountering a problem caused by a service called Nvidia Driver Helper Service. This service has problems closing properly yet doesn’t provoke Windows XP to display the Wait, End Task, or Cancel dialog box. The service isn’t really necessary, so you can change its Startup Type setting from Automatic to Manual in the Services console.

To do so, select Start | Run, type Services.msc in the Open text box, and click OK. When you see the Services console, scroll through the list of services and double-click the Nvidia Driver Helper Service. When you see the properties dialog box, click the Stop button. Then, select Manual in the Startup Type drop-down list box. To complete the operation, click OK and close the Services console.

Computer doesn’t power down when users shut down
In some cases, Windows XP’s Setup program can misidentify the power management scheme in a computer’s BIOS as Advanced Power Management (APM) instead of Advanced Configuration Power Interface (ACPI). When this happens, users will notice that the computer no longer automatically powers down when they shut down Windows XP. Instead, they’ll see the message It Is Now Safe To Turn Off Your Computer and be forced to manually press the power button to turn off the computer.

You can verify this problem by checking the power management configuration in two places—Device Manager and the Control Panel. To quickly access Device Manager, select Start | Run, type Devmgmt.msc in the Open text box, and click OK. When you see the Device Manager window, locate and open the System Devices item. If Setup identified the system as having an APM-compliant BIOS, it will be listed as a Standard PC in the System Devices tree. (If it were identified as having an ACPI-compliant BIOS, you would see it listed here as a Microsoft ACPI-Compliant System.)

To check the power management configuration in the Control Panel, open the Control Panel from the Start menu. If the system is using Category View, select Performance And Maintenance and then click the Power Options icon. If the system is using Classic View, just click the Power Options icon. If Setup identified the system as having an APM-compliant BIOS, you’ll see an APM tab in the Power Options Properties dialog box. (If the system were identified as having an ACPI-compliant BIOS, you wouldn’t see an APM tab.)

You may be able to fix this problem with a BIOS update. To begin, check with the computer manufacturer’s Web site to see if it’s providing the latest BIOS update. If you’re troubleshooting an off-brand computer, you may be on your own as far as tracking down the BIOS update. Here’s how.

Once you obtain and install the BIOS update according to the manufacturer’s instructions, you must perform what I call a Refresh Installation, in which you reinstall Windows XP on top of an existing Windows XP installation. You must perform this reinstall operation because the power management features are tied to a special power management Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL). During the Refresh Installation procedure, Setup will completely redetect all installed hardware, including the updated BIOS, and rebuild the power management HAL as well as the part of the registry in which information about the installed hardware is stored.

Windows, you’ve come a long way
The Windows XP operating system can still be tripped up during the shutdown procedure, but XP’s shutdown problems aren’t as numerous as in previous versions of Windows. I’ve examined some of the most common shutdown problems you’re likely to encounter with Windows XP and shown you how to solve them. For more information on Windows shutdown issues, you can check out Microsoft’s Product Support Services site.