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When Windows XP Shuts Down Very Slowly

April 3, 2009

in applications,computer performance,Windows

by David Hakala

Q: My five-year-old computer running MS Windows XP turns off very slowly. It takes minutes to shut down completely. Any economical suggestions or recommendations? — Alan

Alan, you don’t have to spend a dime, just a little time.

When Windows shuts down, it must save many system settings to use when it starts up again. It saves these settings in a group of files collectively known as “the registry.” Over time, the registry becomes cluttered with invalid settings as you add, remove, and relocate files, shortcuts, programs, etc. Cleaning up such clutter will help Windows shut down and start up much faster.

Download the free TweakNow RegClean utility.

Start RegClean doing its thing and go have lunch; there are tens of thousands of registry settings to check. When you return, you will probably find hundreds of errors have been discovered in your registry. RegClean will tell you which ones can safely be deleted en masse. You should leave the questionable errors alone unless you really know what you’re doing. Like most effective medications, RegClean is “safe when used as directed.” Follow RegClean’s advice and you won’t mess up your computer. It even creates a restore point so you can return your computer to its original state if anything goes wrong.

If you shut down Windows while applications such as an email client are still open, Windows will wait a while for the applications to save their data before “killing” them. Invisible “services” running the background must also close in an orderly fashion, and Windows waits for them to do so before killing them. Reducing the waiting period, or “timeout,” will help Windows shut down faster. You can change both timeouts in the Windows registry.

Click Start, then Run, and enter regedit

To change the timeout before services are killed, navigate to the following registry key:


On the right pane, double-click on “WaitToKillServiceTimeout” or right click on it and choose Modify. Change the default value of WaitToKillServiceTimeout (20000 milliseconds) to a lesser value, such as 5000 or even 1000 (1 second).

To reduce the timeout before open applications are killed, navigate to this registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop

Reduce the value of WaitToKillAppTimeout just as you did for WaitToKillServiceTimeout.

Close regedit and reboot.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at