January 2005 Reader Challenge

Solve this month's Windows Client challenge, and you might win a prize! Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to [email protected] by January 19, 2005. You must include your full name, and street mailing address (without that information, we can't send you a prize if you win). I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents, and I never respond to a request for a receipt. Look for the solutions to this month's problem here on January 20, 2005.

The January 2005 Challenge:

You've been assigned to the Help desk today (sorry, somebody has to do it), and a user calls your extension. The caller complains, “This computer is taking forever to shut down. And when I tried to use Task Manager to end a frozen application, Task Manager took forever to complete the shutdown of the application”.

The frozen application is, of course, a problem, but that's not the focus of this Reader Challenge. Instead, I want to know how you explain to the user what's going on. To explain the delay, you need to know a few things. Do you know them?

1. How long is “forever?” That is, what's the default setting for the amount of time Windows takes to close an application (including one that needs to be shut before the computer can shut down).

2. What is the technical name of the delay that Windows will put up with when it's trying to close an application? (After this delay, Windows uses brute force to end the application, which can have negative consequences.)

3. True or False: You can change the length of “forever.”

1. Twenty seconds (20000 milliseconds).

2. Timeout.

3. True. You can change the Timeout period in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop registry subkey.

To change the length of time Windows tries to close open applications during shutdown, change the value of the item WaitToKillAppTimeout.

To change the length of time Windows uses to close an application with Task Manager, change the value of the item HungAppTimeout.

It's not really a good idea to shorten the timeout--after all, no user will suffer terrible consequences if he or she has to wait 20 seconds (which could hardly be called “forever”, regardless of the user's impatience). However, if you feel you want to change the value of the timeout, don't set it to less than 4 or 5 seconds.

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