In the decades since Microsoft introduced its game-changing operating system, there have been numerous iterations of the desktop OS. Windows 11 currently holds the mantle of flagship product, with the company naturally keen to push the latest version to its user base.
Microsoft dominates the OS marketplace, with around 77% of all desktop devices worldwide running some form of Windows — for context, Apple’s macOS has less than 15%, according to StatCounter. Around 1.4 billion people have a version of Windows in their lives, which makes it a source of frustration when it doesn’t do what it is supposed to.
The plain truth is that Windows 11 (and its predecessor Windows 10) is constantly in need of patches or fixes that are — for the most part — directed toward a plethora of identified security vulnerabilities.
The good news for Windows 11 users is that Microsoft is — for the most part — very diligent in releasing patches to fix or remove software bugs. The even better news is that protecting your PC or laptop against unauthorized access or installed malware can be as easy as shutting down the machine and letting the upgrades do their job.
The caveat is that the average user probably doesn’t think about the potential damage that can be caused to an always-on machine.
Why your PC needs some downtime
If you are one of those diligent individuals that turns off your computer or laptop when it is not being used, then it’s highly likely that you are in the minority. However, the temptation to just walk away and leave the machine running until you need it again is often hard to resist.
The problem with this laissez-faire attitude is that it’s not only bad for the device in terms of performance, background processes and battery life, but also that it leaves the door open for malicious activity.
The black hat community operates on a 24/7 schedule, and while a computer is unlikely to be hacked while it is turned off, simply not shutting it down at all (in some form or another) is generally a bad idea. And as long as the computer is connected to the internet, then it is vulnerable.
To shut down the PC via the Windows 11 taskbar, you take the following steps:
- Click the four squares that represent the Start button.
- Click the circular Power button in the bottom right of the Start Menu.
- Choose if you want to shut down, restart or put the machine to sleep/hibernation.
Alternatively, you can save yourself a few nanoseconds by using a mouse to right-click the Start button to bring up the “Shut down or sign out” menu. Irrespective of which method you prefer, the result is the same.
It is worth noting that hibernation is an option that was designed for laptops and requires some additional steps — Microsoft Support can provide more detailed instructions for end users. In addition, hibernation will use less power than sleep, although it is slower to restart when activated.
Shutdown can also be accessed with keyboard shortcuts. Pressing Alt and F4 simultaneously brings up a Windows 11 menu, which offers the same options – shut down, sign out, put computer to sleep, restart computer. You just need to click OK to proceed. Quick word of warning; if you have a browser or app open, this will instantly close down.
You can also force a shutdown if an app or browser isn’t responding. This is normally related to poor connectivity or potential server issues at source, but it is also simple to implement.
- Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete at the same time to pull up the options menu.
- Click the circular Power button in the bottom right corner of the screen.
- Choose Sleep, Shut Down or Restart — the latter is probably the best option if you want to get straight back to what you are working on.
In the vast majority of cases, the long-running IT joke of “have you tried turning it off and on again” is basically true. Shutting down or (at the very least) activating sleep mode or putting the machine into hibernation will not only allow the upgrades or security patches to take root, but should also prevent or limit malicious activity. Every OS has a different way of being turned off, but Windows 11 users can achieve the desired effect with relative ease.