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I noticed that if I use the power off button on my tower while using Windows 8, it figures out what to do and shuts down safely.

Is this the same case with restart?

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Sure... just push the button twice: once to shut down and once to turn it on again ;) –  Joel Coehoorn Dec 17 '12 at 4:22

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Depends on your BIOS - but, very very rarely.

Where as the power button sends an ACPI event, when you hold down the power button or press the reset button, this usually is a hardware-level power event that is hard coded in to the machine and cannot be overwritten.

I say very rarely though as I remember a good 3-5 years ago on one of the first EFI machines I worked on, there was actually an option in the configuration page where you could control the reset button - it could present itself as a laptop, especially the "lid closed" event - basically giving you another option within power management of the OS (for example, it let me set the power button to power off, and reset to hibernate)...

...However, even on this, holding down the power button still shut the machine down and holding the reset button did a hard reset.

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As it is for all computers. Hold any power button for 5 seconds and it will turn off. –  Ruirize Dec 17 '12 at 10:03
    
@Ruirize hehe, you would be surprised... Some models ONLY have ACPI events... although, I only learnt of this from reading this question - superuser.com/a/292902/4386 –  William Hilsum Dec 17 '12 at 10:49

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