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Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Lock, Sign Off, Shut Down, Restart and Sleep

There’s been a lot of angst about Microsoft’s decision to move common commands like lock, sign out, shutdown, restart, and sleep in Windows 8. Understanding where they can be found in Windows 8 is key to becoming efficient in the new OS. But you can also make these commands more easily accessible without resorting to silly third party utilities. Here’s how.

While the application launching and search functionality of the Start menu from Windows 7 is neatly encapsulated, and even improved on, in the new Windows 8 Start screen, some other common Start menu features are a bit harder to find in the new OS. For example, devices access now occurs through two separate Metro user interfaces, PC Settings and the Devices pane. More egregiously, the power options--like Shut down, Restart, and Sleep--are confusingly located in the Settings pane. And related options, like Lock and Sign out, are now attached to your user tile on the Start screen.




Microsoft didn't arbitrarily move these options around, it was instead trying to find a more logical home for them. But in doing so, the company has confused users. I recommend simply learning new ways of performing these options, so I'll detail a few of them here. But you can also make one or more of these options much more readily accessible.


How to lock and sign off from Windows 8


Windows 8 allows you to lock your PC, by which you remained signed in to your account but the lock screen is displayed, allowing others to sign in (previously called "log in"). Alternatively, you can sign out (previously called "log out"), which closes any running applications and displays the lock screen. In both cases, the PC or device remains running normally and doesn't immediately enter a different power state.


To lock the PC, you can use one of the following methods:


Keyboard: Type WINKEY + L. Or, type CTRL + ALT + DEL and select Lock from the menu that appears.


Mouse: Display the Start screen, click your user tile in the top right, and then select Lock from the menu that appears.


Touch: Display the Start screen, tap your user tile in the top right, and then tap Lock on the menu that appears.


To sign out from the PC, you can use one of the following methods:


Keyboard: Type CTRL + ALT + DEL and select Sign out from the menu that appears.


Mouse: Display the Start screen, click your user tile in the top right, and then select Sign out from the menu that appears.


Touch: Display the Start screen, tap your user tile in the top right, and then tap Sign out on the menu that appears.


How to shut down, restart, or sleep Windows 8


To shut down Windows 8 or perform the other power-related functions, you can use one of the following methods:


Keyboard: Type CTRL + ALT + DEL at any time and then tap the Power button in the lower-right corner of the screen to access Sleep, Shut down, and Start options. Or, type WINKEY + I to display the Settings pane and then tap the Power button from there.


Mouse: Activate the Charms bar by moving the mouse cursor to the lower-right or upper-right corner of the screen and then move the cursor along the right edge of the screen towards the middle of the ridge edge. Click Settings and then Power.


Touch: Activate the Charms bar by swiping in from the right edge of the screen. Click Settings and then Power.


Hardware button: Tap the Start key button or the power button on a Windows device to activate Sleep. Or, on a traditional PC, tap the machine's power button to activate Shut Down. (Be careful: This will happen immediately and without warning, regardless of which applications are running.)


(That last bit about the hardware button assumes you're using the default power scheme, Balanced, and that you have not customized what happens when the power button is pressed.)


Customizing what happens when you press hardware button(s)


You can of course customize what happens when you press a power button. This can be very useful, especially if the PC's or device's power button is in easy reach.


To change what happens when the power button on your PC or device is pressed, launch the Power control panel. (There are many ways to access this control panel. I recommend Start Screen Search or the power user menu that appears when you right-click on the new Start tip thumbnail.) From this interface, click the link on the left titled "Choose what the power buttons do" or "Choose what the power button does."




In the resulting interface, you can choose what happens when the Power (and possibly Sleep) button does when pressed. Available choices include Do nothing, Sleep, Hibernate, and Shut down. Portable devices will further allow different actions based on whether the device is plugged in or on battery power.




You might be able to similarly customize other related actions. For example, on a typical portable computer, you will see an option titled "Choose what closing the lid does."


Making these options more accessible in Windows 8


You may not be thrilled with the placement of the lock/sign out and power options in Windows 8, and maybe configuring a power button to do your bidding isn't cutting it either. Short of using a silly utility to return the old-school Start menu to Windows 8, is there some way you can surface these commands in a more elegant and usable fashion?


Of course there is.


The key is to make a shortcut to the relevant command and then make that shortcut visible where you want it: On the taskbar, the Windows desktop, or even on the Start screen. And doing so is simple enough because, as any power user or IT pro can tell you, Windows has long support a command line utility, shutdown, that offers all of these options.


To see this command, open a command line window by typing WINKEY + R (for "Run") to display the Run box. Then type cmd and hit Enter. In the command line window that appears, type the following to display all of the options associate with the shutdown command:


shutdown /?


You should see something similar to this:




Given this information, you might consider using the following commands to accomplish the relevant, lock/sign out and power-related options...


Shut down immediately (with no warning)

shutdown.exe /s /t 0


Restart immediately (with no warning)

shutdown.exe /r /t 0


Sign out

shutdown.exe /l     <- That's a lowercase "L", not a one.


Armed with this information, you can make a shortcut to any one of these commands. To do so, right-click on the desktop and choose New and then Shortcut from the menu that appears. In the Create Shortcut wizard, paste one of the above commands into the text box. (I'll use shut down in this case.) Then tap Next.


In the next page of the wizard, give the shortcut a name, something like Shut down, and then click Finish.


The resulting shortcut has a plain icon, so right-click it and choose Properties. In the Properties window that appears, click the Change Icon button and then click OK in the warning dialog that appears. In the next window, select an appropriate icon.




Click OK and then OK again to close out the windows. Your new shortcut now has a useful new icon. Repeat these steps for each shortcut you wish to create and then move them somewhere easy to find. (I put them in a folder I created, C:\Program Files\Shutdown.)


Now you can place them where you want them. I recommend choosing a spot between the following:


Taskbar. You can drag the shortcuts, one by one, to the Windows taskbar for quick access. Note, however, that this can be dangerous since these shortcuts act immediately with no warning. So if you tap the Shut down button by mistake, your PC will shut down immediately whether you want it to or not.




Taskbar, in a new toolbar. Alternatively, you can create a new taskbar toolbar that points to the folder that contains the shortcuts and then position that toolbar on the right side of the taskbar where you may be less likely to click one inadvertently. Remember that you can unlock the taskbar and choose various toolbar options to make it look the way you want. A few possible configurations are shown below.






There are other configurations, but you get the idea. To get started, right-click the taskbar and choose Toolbars then New toolbar from the menu that appears.


Start screen. To place tiles for these options on the Start screen, right-click each in turn and choose Pin to Start from the menu that appears.



Then, navigate to the Start screen and position the tile(s) where you'd like them. Optionally group them and give the name a group.


Desktop. Finally, you can do it the old-fashioned way: Simple copy the shortcuts to the desktop and access them from there.


Final thoughts


That's a lot of work for a set of activities that are only occasionally needed, at least by most people. But if you do need to routinely lock, sign off from, shut down, restart, or sleep your PC or devices, you have lots of choices, even in Windows 8. And I suspect that at least one of the methods described here will help you do so efficiently, day after day.

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