Restarting Windows Without Restarting Your PC (Vista or XP)

Restarting Windows VistaA modern PC with Vista Home Edition takes about one and a half minutes to boot. An older machine with XP is about the same. That’s 30 seconds for the PC itself (the BIOS) to boot up, plus a minute for the Windows operating system to boot. Sometimes, you need to reboot Windows (e.g. when installing new software), but there is no need to restart BIOS, too. However, the default is to reboot both. (That’s called doing a “cold boot,” rather than a “warm boot.”) There’s a trick that works on both XP and Vista to get it to do a warm boot instead, thus saving you 30 seconds per cycle.

Update: Well, this tip is in error. It used to work in Windows 95/98, but it doesn’t work anymore. I thought it did, but I was mistaken. So the CodeJacked score on Windows tips currently stands at 103 valid tips and 1 invalid one. Sorry about that, folks. For the full story on what happened, see Accidental Hoax Revealed; CodeJacked Tipster Chagrined.

Update #2: Amazingly, people keep posting comments and pingbacks to this tip even though it’s been retracted. Commenting on this post is now closed, but feel free to comment on the follow-up post.

The trick is to hold down the SHIFT key when invoking the restart.Windows Vista: Select Start, then hover over the right arrow that is to the right of the padlock icon until the pop-up menu appears that contains “restart” as one of it’s choices. Hold down the SHIFT key while clicking on the “restart” choice.

Windows XP: Select Start. Select “Shut Down…”. Change the drop-down combo box under “What do you want the computer to do?” to “Restart”. Hold down the SHIFT key while clicking on the “OK” button.
Restarting Windows XP

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  1. Wow really? It is pretty rare for someone to teach me something entirely new about XP, but that really is new to me.

    What exactly does it do? It looks to me like it does more than just restart explorer.exe, it seems more like ctrl-shift-backspace in Linux.

    Anyone know exactly what it does?

  2. I tried this on my 2nd computer and it would simply go back to the desktop. There was no error message in the logs, just no result. I finally got it to go via the shutdown command available from ctrl+alt+delete. I don’t know whether that’s different, or whether it was the one of multiple attempts that finally worked.

    That computer uses a wireless keyboard and mouse hooked to a KVM switch, and when it restarted it didn’t recognize either one. My guess is that the KVM caused the problem.

    It’ll be a handy tip when working on others’ computers to lessen the amount of time spent waiting for multiple reboots, though. Thanks!

  3. Another quirk, this time on my Thinkpad laptop: First, I had the same experience of having nothing happen unless I used the shutdown button from ctrl+alt+delete. Then when it started to reboot it couldn’t find the hard drive, and I had to restart. So it looks like some manufacturers set things up in a way that the BIOS is required.

  4. You could do this back in Windows 95 not exactly a new feature.

  5. this does not work for me at all, whether using ctrl+atl+del or start->shutdown…..

  6. Didn’t help at all for me. I have the grub boot loader installed so I wonder if that forces the bios to restart?

  7. it doesn’t work for me at all

  8. Nice trick

  9. Not working

  10. Doesn’t work. Still does a regular reboot.

  11. There’s a reason we haven’t heard of this trick before. Mostly because it doesn’t work. It works in Windows 98 since it just runs over DOS.

  12. Haha, so that’s *16* ways to shut the damn thing :)

  13. Doesn’t work here either. But I don’t have the drop-down box. start>turn off computer just gives thee buttons – “standby” “turn-off” “restart” There is no OK button. How do you switch over to the alternate display?

  14. Craig,
    Do you have to hold the Shift key after you click ok? Maybe some people are clicking ok and letting go of the Shift key to early?


    This existed in 9x but was removed in 2000, and hasn’t been there since. It doesn’t matter which shutdown dialog you use.

  16. @Lorin: you need to change to the Classic Logon style to get the Windows 2000/ME style shutdown box that is shown.
    or maybe you can hold shift and click the restart icon.

    it is an old feature, but didn’t know that it still worked on XP/Vista

  17. Thanks, works.

  18. This is an old feature from 98.. does not work these days.. this guy does not have a clue what he is talking about

  19. I smell a prank…

    Imagine how many people on Digg restarted their computers just to see if this worked.


  20. Very nice tip! It will only save me a few minutes a week, but tons of annoyance with Windows restarts.

  21. This totally does not work in any NT based OS, as noted above.

    Great “tip”.. if you’re running Windows 9x.

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