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We've all had to wait for Windows to shut down, and some of us have to wait so long that we have to turn off the computer & turn it back on. Mine usually sits forever on "Windows is shutting down" (it's there when I come back the next morning!)

So what does Windows actually do that is so important that it needs to hold things up?

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NOT forcibly kill things that don't want to die, in many cases. I've had CD-writing software force me to hard-reset, as they locked the drive then crashed. Windows wouldn't reboot! – Phoshi Sep 17 '09 at 21:49
I used to have to press enter to finish the shutdown once the disk stopped churning. It seems SOMETHING was prompting for a key press, and you can't see the text console behind the shutting down screen. – dlamblin Sep 18 '09 at 1:37

It waits for all apps to shut down, it saves all its settings and it probably makes a cup of tea to drink before going to bed :)

On a more serious note, you can read more about the whole shutdown process here (really technical stuff).

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You forgot to mention jam and bread, and on Thursdays, Windows fancies scones too! – caliban Sep 17 '09 at 21:50
+1 for accurately pointing out that tea is needed. – caliban Sep 17 '09 at 21:51
@caliban: Go to sleep! :) – alex Sep 17 '09 at 21:51
I once had a windows that preferred coffee. Needless to say, I reformatted quickly. – Phoshi Sep 17 '09 at 21:52
@alex: wet blanket. ;) Good morrow then, have a great weekend! – caliban Sep 17 '09 at 21:53

the Event Log is always a good place to start your investigation.

Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Event Viewer

We've all had to wait for Windows to shut down, and some of us have to wait so long that we have to turn off the computer & turn it back on.

as a workaround (not a solution!) you may resort to Superfast Shutdown (it does what it says on the tin).

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I think the corollary is what exactly does Superfast Shutdown do differently, and is it safe? – dlamblin Sep 18 '09 at 1:39
it is safe to use. of course, if you're having unsaved documents open, then changes will be lost. mind you, in this case it is a workaround, NOT a solution. however, i'm using SF Reboot regularly with 'DeepFrozen' computers in schools and internet cafes, etc. it works just fine. does what it says on the tin. – Molly7244 Sep 18 '09 at 1:54
Keep in mind that user programs are pretty much the first to go on shutdown; the mentioned program probably also skips writing the disk cache to disk and other things. You might end up with a slower startup after that while NTFS heals itself – Joey Sep 18 '09 at 5:05

You can set it to force kill any horrible apps - it should shut down within seconds, not days!

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and where is that setting? – nnyby Sep 17 '09 at 23:43

Newflash, Walter Cronkite - it's not Windows. It's probably some processes that's having some problems shutting down, and since that processes never shuts down, Windows similarly won't power down too.

A finely-tuned Windows system shuts down really fast.

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Windows saves all your settings and everything that you did. Profile Hive Cleanup has helped me with my shutdown, I wonder why no one mentioned it.

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