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Windows 8 Tip: Shut Down, Restart, and Sleep

With Windows 8, Microsoft is standardizing a lot of common tasks through new system-level features such as charms, contracts, and settings. But this standardization is causing some users fits, so I’m writing up a series of tips aimed at helping you overcome some common gotcha’s. In this tip, I look at a common source of confusion in Windows 8: How you shut down, restart, or sleep the PC.

It used to be so simple. In Windows 7 and all previous Windows versions dating back to 1995, you would initiate various power management actions via the Start Menu. In Windows 8, however, that interface has been replaced by a new full-screen Start experience, called the Start screen. And those Start Menu-based power management options are no longer available there. So what’s a poor Windows user to do?

Learn how it works in Windows 8, of course.

As it turns out, there are a couple of different interfaces.

The easiest, perhaps, is to simply use the tried and true CTRL + ALT + DEL keyboard shortcut. This will work from anywhere in Windows 8, including the Start screen, any Metro-style app, or the desktop. When you do this, a full-screen experience appears, with Lock, Switch User, Sign Out, and Task Manager options. But if you click that Power icon in the bottom right, you’ll see a menu with power management options: Sleep, Shut down, and Restart.


Naturally, there’s a Metro-style experience for these power management options as well. If you’ve been following along with this series of tips, you know that has centralized many commonly-needed system-level options in the new Settings experience, which you can view from anywhere in Windows 8 by tapping WINKEY + I or by accessing the Charms bar and selecting Settings. When you do, the Settings pane appears.


While the top part of the Settings pane is experience-specific—i.e. related to whatever you’re currently viewing—the lower part is consistent across the system and includes system-level options. One of these is Power. And when you tap the Power icon, you’ll see the same power management options you got in the full screen experience.


Finally, you can also use the hardware power button(s) on your PC or device to perform certain power management tasks. These capabilities will differ according to your hardware, and can involve dedicated Power and Sleep buttons (the latter usually only on clamshell-style portable computers) as well as what happens when you close the lid on a portable computer. You can determine what your hardware power button(s) do when pressed in the Power Options control panel. (Use Start Search to find it quickly.)


Some people, of course, are never happy. They want things to be the way they were, or least much as they were. And for those who are unhappy with how Windows 8 works, I recommend reading my previous article, Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Lock, Sign Off, Shut Down, Restart And Sleep, for information about adding more accessible power management (and lock and sign out) options to Windows 8. Check out the section “Making these options more accessible in Windows 8,” at the end of the article in particular.

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