I am astonished I have to ask this question. It reminds me about people asking how to exit Vim, the image deeply ingrained in the popular culture.

I found out that in order to exit a desktop session in Windows 10 I have to do the following:

  1. Left click on the "Windows Start" button on the task panel
  2. In the popup panel Hover over the "Power off" icon to expand the panel
  3. In the new popup panel right click on my name
  4. In the third popup panel finally I can see an option to "Sign out" of the desktop session. I can left click on it to terminate the session.

This does not seem intuitive at all as only on step 4 I see the option I am looking for.

Is there a simpler more intuitive way to terminate a Windows session? A way that does not require printed instructions and could be communicated to a new user just by shouting over the phone.

How to exit Windows session

  • 23
    You don't need to hover over anything nor right click either. Just click start, then left click the little person icon above the document icon, then "sign out". All of those options are there without the "hover", which just expands out the menu to a larger view, and I don't know where you got right clicking from.
    – Mokubai
    Jan 27, 2023 at 8:51
  • 10
    exit a desktop session is called signing out. No one's exited to DOS in 20y. "Try 'control alt delete'!" – Matrix Runs on Windows XP
    – Mazura
    Jan 28, 2023 at 2:07
  • 8
    Lots of answers saying how to do it FASTER or with LESS KEYSTROKES. But the question is asking for a SIMPLER MORE INTUITIVE WAY. ie, something that doesn't require specialist knowledge, and is, hopefully, obvious to a novice.
    – Stewart
    Jan 28, 2023 at 16:25
  • 2
    Push the powerbutton. The exact period of time depends on the configuration. Jan 29, 2023 at 19:49
  • 2
    @htmlcoderexe the point of blurring the username out is that it is not important for the question. Also the user name is in Cyrillic letters and I personally get distracted when I see text fragments on SE screenshots written in languages I am not familiar with. Also the images on the web have a life of there own totally out of our control. But this discussion is probably for the Meta. Jan 30, 2023 at 9:15

10 Answers 10


Not exactly more intuitive, but only 3 steps and possibly more easily shoutable over the phone:

  1. Right click on the "Windows Start" button on the task panel
  2. Left click on "Shutdown or sign out"
  3. Left click on "Sign out"
  • 7
    This can even be reduced to a mere 2 clicks by hovering over Shut down or sign out instead of clicking it! It takes about 0.5s for the next menu to appear though, so click if you're speedrunning.
    – TylerW
    Jan 27, 2023 at 17:09
  • 4
    Click Start to Stop. Very intuitive.
    – Déjà vu
    Jan 29, 2023 at 2:03
  • 13
    @Déjàvu Not only was that joke old 25 years ago, it no longer makes any sense, since the "Start menu" hasn't displayed the word "Start" since Windows Vista. Arguably instructions to novice users should no longer call it that - just say "click the windows logo at the bottom left of the screen".
    – IMSoP
    Jan 29, 2023 at 19:31
  • 4
    @IMSoP - If I hover over it I still see the tooltip "Start" Jan 29, 2023 at 23:16
  • @Déjàvu even then, it never really made sense. In a car, you turn your ignition key one way to turn start the motor, and the other way to stop it. Devices have a 'Power' button that you use to turn the device on, and then turn it off. Nobody ever went "hurr durr it should be a de-ignition key/unpower button". The Windows start button used exactly the same concept.
    – mcalex
    Jan 30, 2023 at 4:45

Nothing has changed since Windows 3.1 : The quickest way to shutdown or Sign-out is the to press Alt+F4 while the focus is on the desktop (click the desktop if needed).

Whichever option is selected in the drop-down list is remembered for later invocations of this dialog.

enter image description here

  • 11
    You can also focus the taskbar, which is even faster.
    – Daniel B
    Jan 27, 2023 at 9:46
  • 1
    @DanielB how is that faster? to focus the desktop use Windows+D and to focus the taskbar use Windows+T, both take the same number of steps
    – phuclv
    Jan 28, 2023 at 9:58
  • 1
    To put focus on the taskbar, you can also click any empty space on it. If all your screens have maximized apps on them, you cannot do the same using the desktop as easily. Also, at least on my Windows 7 system with desktop icons hidden, clicking the desktop and pressing Alt+F4 has no effect. Jan 28, 2023 at 15:03
  • 2
    A nice trick for power users, but definitely the wrong answer for the intended use case of IT support explaining how to log out to a novice. "Focus the desktop? What?"
    – nitro2k01
    Jan 29, 2023 at 0:29
  • 1
    @harrymc It definitely is. The idea that you press three buttons AT THE SAME TIME* is like some Olympic challenge. * : In reality, you hold CTRL + ALT first, then press DEL, but most users can't even locate these buttons, let alone hold them and then look for the DEL button, which is yet another button they probably never use.
    – Nelson
    Jan 30, 2023 at 0:31

There is a lot ways to do it, adding to other answers

  1. If you just want to lock your computer press only Win Key+L
  2. If you want to Sign out press Ctrl+ALt+Del and click on Sign out
  • 3
    Ctrl + Alt + Del may not work for a VM or Remote Desktop one (some other key combination may). Jan 28, 2023 at 18:53
  • 4
    @PeterMortensen Both should have a button that sends the key presses for you. Jan 28, 2023 at 23:31
  • 3
    @PeterMortensen if I recall correctly, the Remote Desktop key combo is Ctrl + Alt + End
    – Tom Lint
    Jan 30, 2023 at 13:42

You have included some unnecessary steps in your instructions. A shorter description of the same method is this:

  1. Click the Windows logo at the bottom left of the screen
  2. Click the icon of a person's head and shoulders (or your Windows "user picture" if you've set one) in the left-hand column
  3. Click "Sign out"

Illustration of left-hand strip of Windows 10 Start Menu

This is exactly the same number of steps as shutting down the computer (which could equally be described as "exiting Windows"):

  1. Click the Windows logo at the bottom left of the screen
  2. Click the power / standby icon in the left-hand column
  3. Click "Shut down"

If you like, you can explain that step 1 is called the "Start menu" (mostly for historical reasons, since it hasn't had "Start" on the button since 2007), and step 2 is selecting either the "User" or "Power" sub-menu.

The hover you include in your instructions can be anywhere on the left-hand strip of the menu, not just the power icon, and doesn't change the functionality of those items, just displays some extra help text. It can also be toggled by clicking the three-line "hamburger" icon at the top of the strip.

None of the steps require a right-click.

These instructions mostly apply to Windows 11 as well, except that by default the Windows logo is not anchored to the bottom-left corner of the screen, but floats at the left of a set of icons in the middle. Once you've found it, the icons look the same, they're just arranged along the bottom of the menu rather than the side.

  • What icon of a person's head and shoulders?
    – CGCampbell
    Jan 30, 2023 at 13:26
  • 1
    @CGCampbell The user picture. If unset, it defaults to line art of a human upper body + head.
    – Daniel B
    Jan 30, 2023 at 14:35
  • @DanielB The user icon doesn't show up until you mouse over or click the power icon. If you just click the start menu and then try to find the user icon on the screen it isn't there. Jan 30, 2023 at 16:04
  • 1
    @user3067860 I've added a screenshot of the icon I'm talking about. This appears as soon as I click the Windows logo. It is not connected to the power icon in any way. I went into Settings in case I'd customised it somehow, but can't find any setting which changes how those icons appear.
    – IMSoP
    Jan 30, 2023 at 16:39
  • @DanielB Thanks for that clarification, I was only vaguely aware that it was possible to customise the user avatar, so it hadn't occurred to me that it would replace that icon.
    – IMSoP
    Jan 30, 2023 at 16:42

Because of some issues at my office with connecting to remote servers via RDP, I placed an icon on the desktop of the remote server; this icon is a shortcut to C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe /l. The /l tells shutdown to log off, not shut down the computer.


I use this longer keyboard combination that doesn't need a specific focus (like Alt+F4):

Win+x, then Enter

  • 6
    Win + X, u, u also works most of the time.
    – user3490
    Jan 28, 2023 at 8:37
  • 3
    @user3490 this depends on the locale
    – Ruslan
    Jan 28, 2023 at 14:14
  • 3
    For me that's Hibernate, not Sign out.
    – Hugh W
    Jan 28, 2023 at 14:39
  • 2
    @HughW Might be, hibernation is disabled on mine.
    – Freddy
    Jan 28, 2023 at 15:20
  • 8
    TIL the Konami code works on Windows too
    – detly
    Jan 29, 2023 at 13:56

You can also use the shutdown.exe command.
Press Windows+r, type shutdown /l, and press Return.

  • 5
    /s will shut down the computer, not sign out the user (well, not just sign out the user)
    – gronostaj
    Jan 28, 2023 at 22:04
  • @gronostaj whoops - my first reading of the question saw "how to exit windows" and my brain understood "how shut down windows". A kind passerby has made an edit for me :-)
    – Aaron F
    Jan 30, 2023 at 17:19
  • create a shortcut on your desktop to the same and just double-click it.
    – Blindspots
    Feb 6, 2023 at 22:19
  • @BlindSpots That takes too long for my liking :-) After you've run the shutdown command once it'll be in the history, so after that it's a matter of pressing Win+r, s, Return. But a good thing about your desktop shortcut idea is that you can assign a key combination to it in the properties tab, for ultra-quick logouts! Ctrl+Alt+L for example could be assigned.
    – Aaron F
    Feb 6, 2023 at 22:30
  • 1
    sorry that was for the OP ;-) I think they are the type that would adore an icon on their desktop.
    – Blindspots
    Feb 6, 2023 at 22:36

I, too, usually first think of Control-Alt-Delete, then sign out from there, before doing so from the right-click Start Button, even though that's where I go for rebooting or shutting down.

All the several Remote Desktop programs I use have functionality included for being able to send C-A-D to the remote computer, and I consider that it's especially less cumbersome to do it using C-A-D when RDP'd into a computer, rather than the fiddly multiple left and right clicks necessary. This can also depend on the size of the screen you're remoting from. I know the OP didn't specifically ask about doing it through remote sessions, but it works for me whether remote or local.


This is what I use: right-click on the bottom left Windows Start button and get all the settings including the device manager.

Tip: Use Alt + F4 combination repeatedly no matter where you are. You will get the Shutdown option pop-up in a few moments.enter image description here


You can create a one click shutdown button anywhere you want with these steps.

  1. Right click desktop
  2. Select New -> Shortcut
  3. Enter shutdown /s /t 0 as the location
  4. Click Continue, pick a name, click Finish

You can place the resulting icon in your taskbar (which is how I use it) or anywhere else you can place shortcuts to other apps.

  • 6
    /s shuts down the computer. This is not what OP asked for.
    – gronostaj
    Jan 28, 2023 at 22:05

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