Windows XP: Fix Startup / Shutdown Problems

Excessively long Windows XP shutdowns

Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003 can experience excessively long shutdowns because a system process won’t release part of the user profile as it should when the user turns the system off. Consequently, the system remains inactive until the process times out and Windows can force it to shut down.

To fix that problem, Microsoft provides a free User Profile Hive Cleanup Service tool that monitors the shutdown process, making sure that all handles opened to the hive are released properly.

You experience log off problems on a Windows XP-based, Windows Server 2003-based, Windows 2000-based, or Windows NT 4.0-based computer-

Microsoft User Profile Hive Cleanup Service 1.6g –

Registry Hives –

“A hive is a logical group of keys, subkeys, and values in the [Windows] Registry that has a set of supporting files containing backups of its data.” –

In this case, the hive is all the User Profile data. The User Profile Hive Cleanup Service only works on the 32-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003. Fortunately, not many people will be using the 64-bit version of Windows XP Professional and there is no 64-bit version of Windows XP Home.

Windows Vista and Windows 7/8.1 provide this cleanup process as a service. For more information on UPHCleanup Service and the problems it can solve, visit this webpage:

You experience log-off problems on a Windows XP-based, Windows Server 2003-based, Windows 2000-based, or Windows NT 4.0-based computer –

If you are still experiencing a shutdown problem – even after having used the information in the next item on this page called “Force a shutdown in Windows XP”, try doing the following:

For example, a shutdown or reboot may linger only a second or two at the Saving your settings… screen but hang at the Windows is shutting down… screen. The shutdown (or reboot) may continue to completion, but at least 50% of the time forcing a manual shutdown or reboot is required. Adding the -f -s switches to the shutdown command (enter cmd in the Start => Run box to bring up the Command Prompt and then enter shutdown /? to bring up the available switches to the shutdown command) to make it shutdown might not make any difference even when Windows XP SP3 is completely up-to-date, the Registry has been cleaned by the free CCleaner (or alternative Registry cleaner) and the hard-drive partitions have been defragmented using the Start => All Programs => Accessories => System Tools => Disk Defragmenter.

In that case, it looks as if a low-level software process or a device’s device driver is not responding to the Windows shutdown command.Next page

If the problem occurred after installing new software or a hardware device, uninstalling that software or uninstalling the hardware’s device drivers in the Device Manager (by finding the device, right-clicking on its entry and clicking Uninstall) shutting down and removing the device might fix the problem.

The permanent solution may be as simple as updating the software, using alternative software or using different drivers for the hardware. It would also be a good idea to update all drivers and software. Secunia Personal Software Inspector can identify which software needs updating and often also update it for you. Device drivers can be updated by running the update software provided by the PC’s motherboard manufacturer. If you need to identify the make/model of the motherboard, CPU-Z from can do that.

If the problem still hasn’t been fixed by doing that, you’ll have to do some deeper investigation. Make sure that you have a restorable backup of your system, just in case something goes wrong. You can use the free Microsoft Sysinternals Process Explorer utility to have a deep look at the processes that are running at any time.

Windows Sysinternals Process Explorer –

Run Process Explorer and find out what low-level software is running when there is no apparent activity and the system is ready for shutdown (there are no open programs and files). To be provided with plenty of information on it, right-click on any process shown in Process Explorer, select Properties. The tool can display an enhanced Properties dialog for any process that is selected.

Begin with third-party (non-Windows) software, because Windows software is unlikely to be the cause unless the problem started after Windows Update installed updates. If that was the case you can uninstall Windows updates one by one in the Control Panel => Add or Remove Programs if the option to Show updates is enabled.

Use Process Explorer to end one process and then shut down. If Windows shuts down properly, you know which process is the cause of the shutdown problem. If it doesn’t, restart and end one process at a time until a normal shutdown occurs. You should eventually be able to discover which software is responsible. Knowing that, you just have to remove or update that software or use alternative software.