TechRepublic member BeenThereDoneThat asked for help with a common Windows problem in our Technical Q&A. “Windows 2000 (SP2) will not restart or shut down,” he wrote. “The hard drive light is active for about 45 seconds and then the blue screen goes to a black screen. [I] must power off or hit the reset button to restart.” Such shutdown problems can be a real pain and, although there are many potential problems, two of the more common fixes involve checking the BIOS and eliminating time-out errors.

Check the BIOS
There are several different things that can cause this particular problem. You should first check in the system’s BIOS because not all BIOS chips are created equal. Some older systems simply don’t support being powered off by the operating system. For example, you may have seen some Windows 98 machines that display the It Is Now Safe To Turn Off Your Computer message, rather than powering off, when a user performs a shutdown.

More helpful BIOS information

For information about BIOS settings and beep codes, check out these articles, columns, and downloads:

In some cases, you can get around this problem by obtaining a BIOS update from the computer or motherboard manufacturer. Doing so will likely make the system more compatible with the Windows shutdown procedure. It’s also a good idea to check the existing BIOS’ Power Management and Plug and Play OS settings to ensure nothing is interfering with the shutdown.

Time-out errors
Another common problem is that on slower computers or on computers that are over worked, Windows may time out while waiting for critical system services to shut down. When this happens, Windows tries to force any services that are still running to immediately shut down. Forcing a service to shut down before its had time to shut down on its own can cause the system to lock up, or cause data corruption, operating system file corruption, or a number of other problems.

The solution is to configure Windows to wait for a longer period of time before assuming a service isn’t responding. Doing so involves editing the registry.

Word of warning

The following section suggests ways to edit your system registry. Using the Windows Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system and could result in data loss. TechRepublic does not and will not support problems that arise from editing your registry. Use the Registry Editor and the following directions at your own risk.

Open the Registry Editor and navigate to:

When you’ve selected the Control key, select the Add Value command from the Registry Editor’s Edit menu. Create a registry key named WaitToKillServiceTimeout. The name of this key is case sensitive. The new key should be of data type REG_SZ. You must then assign a string of data to the key that tells Windows the number of milliseconds to wait on a service before timing out. The value that you enter must be above 20,000, which is the default value. When you’ve entered a value, close the Registry Editor and reboot your computer so that the change will take effect.

Don’t let Windows 2000 shut you down

What other Windows 2000 shutdown problems have you had to troubleshoot? Post a comment to this article and share your shutdown tips and tricks. Or visit TechRepublic’s Technical Q&A section for advice on other tough IT problems.