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Should I be using one or the other for different things?

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man halt covers the differences –  hbdgaf Jan 23 '11 at 22:58
    
have read it, just wanted clairification –  loosecannon Jan 26 '11 at 3:42

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

halt brings the system down to its lowest state, but leaves it powered on.

shutdown brings the system down to its lowest state, and will turn off power (soft power switch) if it can. Most computers now can do so.

reboot restarts the system. It brings the system down to its lowest state, then starts it up again.

Which to do depends on what you want to do. halt is usually to get to a state where you can perform low level maintenance. shutdown is to power the system off, and reboot is to reboot it.

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Whenever I use the halt command on Mac OS X and Linux, it completely shuts my system down. –  Wuffers Jan 24 '11 at 0:15
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This is slightly incorrect. shutdown can bring the system to any of these states, including single user mode (the default). Also, there is the poweroff command, turning power off (if possible). –  maxelost Jan 24 '11 at 16:45
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yeah halt also completely turns my computer off ( Ubuntu server 9.04) but I normally just type halt to poweroff and reboot to restart because its shorter than the shutdown command. Any harm in that? –  loosecannon Jan 26 '11 at 3:40

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