Thursday, June 03, 2010

My PC is stuck at the It's Now Safe To Shut Down Your Computer screen

Have you ever had a PC that simply won't power down but is stuck at the black screen saying It's now safe to shut down your computer? It's rather annoying to have to hold down the Power button for 5 seconds in order to manually power down the system. In this short post you'll learn how to fix the It's now safe to shut down your computer issue.

This problem was fairly common in Windows 95-98 systems, but it also happens on modern XP, Vista and Windows 7 systems: they get stuck in the shutdown sequence and "forget" to auto-power off. There are several reasons why this may happen: the ACPI drivers are not installed properly (usually with laptop PCs), the Advanced Power Management is turned off in the BIOS settings (usually with desktop PCs), but the most common problem is a Registry entry that's missing or has the wrong value.

Here's how to fix the issue with the wrong/missing registry value.
Go to the Start button and select Run. A small popup window appears, where you need to type regedit and hit Enter. This will launch the Registry Editor. This is a versatile tool that can make or break your PC, so make sure you follow the instructions to the smallest iota.

Here's the Registry Editor main window. Notice that it resembles Windows Explorer in basically all details needed for this fix. First, the main window is split in a left and a right field. The left field has the familiar Tree-structure with folders and subfolders, and at the right you can see the content of these folders. At the very bottom notice that there is an Address Bar which matches the selected folder in the left part of the main window. Once you're familiar with the organization of the Registry Editor main window, we can  move on.

To fix the It's Now Safe to Shut Down your Computer, go to this folder:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon

Here's how the Registry Editor window looks like when at the Winlogon folder:

As you can see from the highlight-rectangles in the left and bottom side of the image, the location in the Tree structure is reported down in the Address bar. In the right half of the window you can see all the entries from the Winlogon folder, listed just like file lists in Windows Explorer. Here's the important part: Check to see if there is an entry named  PowerDownAfterShutdown. As you can see from the previous image, my PC has this entry, and it has a value of 0 (zero). The Zero value tells the PC to ignore this entry, while a value 1 tells the PC to execute the power down at shutdown command. Since I use a laptop, the ACPI (Advanced Computer Power Interface) tells my system that the shutdown sequence must end with system power down, which seems to override the PowerDownAfterShutdown Zero entry, which says Do NOT power down at shutdown. If my system was a desktop PC, chances are I'd be stuck at the black screen saying It's Now Safe to Shut Down Your Computer. This value should be 1, which means DO power down at shutdown. To change the value from Zero to One, double click the PowerDownAfterShutdown. The popup window has a field named Value Data and you simply change the 0 with 1 and click OK. This tells the PC that the shutdown procedure ends with a full power down of the system.

In some rare cases the PowerDownAfterShutdown entry is missing altogether, and you'll need to create it just as you create files and folders in Windows Explorer.
To create the PowerDownAfterShutdown entry, right-click in an empty field in the right part of the Registry Editor window (empty as in do not right-click on top of an existing entry). This will open a quick menu that allows you to create a New String Value:

This new String Value will appear at the bottom of the entries list and you will need to name it PowerDownAfterShutdown and hit Enter. Once you've created and named the registry entry, you'll need to set it's value so that the PC will know what to do with this entry. To edit the value of the newly created entry, double-click it and in the popup window enter 1 in the Value Data field and click OK.

With this new String Value properly named as PowerDownAfterShutdown, and properly configured Value Data of 1, your PC shutdown sequence should be complete and it should power off at shutdown so you won't be stuck at the It's Now Safe to Shut Down Your Computer.
This fix should work for both desktops and laptops. In case if you have a laptop like me and it is still does not power down, try setting the Value Data to 0 and see if that changes anything. If it doesn't, try installing the ACPI component. To do this, go to Control Panel-Add New Hardware. Have the wizard look for new hardware (it should not prompt that it found anything new), and at the next window, select Yes I have already connected the hardware and click OK. Then you'll see a list of available hardware. Scroll down to see if the Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery is on the list (if you have a laptop). If you have a desktop, there should be an entry ACPI Compliant Computer or alike. If this entry is not in the list, you'll need to scroll down at the bottom of the hardware list and select Install New Hardware. At the next window, select the Install the hardware I manually select from a list (Advanced) and click Next. From the new hardware list, select the NT Apm/Legacy Support, click Next and follow the instructions. This will install the missing Advanced Power Management module which will take care of the missing ACPI component. If this step also doesn't solve the power off at shutdown issue, you'll need to take a look at the BIOS settings. 
If you never ever worked in BIOS it may be best to take the computer to a trained professional or a geeky friend. If you're a DIY fan, please take a look at this short BIOS description. When you figure out which BIOS version you have, Google it for descriptions and guides and go to BIOS only after you're fairly confident that you know exactly what to do. Take notes as you read so you don't get stuck in BIOS not knowing what the next step was.

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