This topic was prompted by a problem that one of our clients was facing. He ran into a problem trying to get his computer to shut down:

He was running Windows XP Professional and it absolutely refused to shut down. Every time he tried to shut down it could go through the motions, but when it got to the point to turn off the machine, the BIOS screen could come up and the machine reboots.

Annoying; well let’s look at the causes before we tell you what worked for our Client. There are three basic sources of automatic reboot problems:

· Recovery settings

· Software incompatibilities, including driver issues

· BIOS problems

Recovery Settings

One of the things that is quite different about Windows XP compared to Windows 9x (9x is shorthand for Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Me in all their various versions), is that one can control how it responds to certain critical errors—those that cause the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). In Windows XP, the default setting is for the computer to reboot automatically when a fatal error occurs. If that fatal error only occurs when you’re shutting down, the system reboots automatically.

If you haven’t changed any of the system failure settings, you should be able to see the error by looking in the Event Log. But a better long-term solution is to turn off the automatic reboot so you can actually see the error when it happens—chances are it will tell you enough about itself to let you troubleshoot further. To change the recovery settings to disable automatic rebooting:

· Right-click My Computer and then click Properties.

· Click the Advanced tab.

· Under Startup and Recovery, click Settings to open the Startup and Recovery dialog box.

· Clear the Automatically restart check box, and click OK the necessary number of times.

· Restart your computer for the settings to take effect

Now when you go to shut down and a fatal error occurs, you’ll at least see it and it won’t cause an automatic reboot. You still have to sort out what’s causing the problem, and that gets us to the next cause.

Software Incompatibility

Most of the time a fatal error or BSOD is a software or driver problem, and troubleshooting these can be tricky. The mechanism for troubleshooting, however, is pretty much the same for any problem on a PC. The first thing to look at is what’s changed—what new software program or drivers have you added, usually just before the problem started. This sounds easy and it often is, but if it’s something you’ve lived with for a while, you’ll often have no idea what the proximate cause is. When you do, it’s a lot easier. When you don’t, you need to do a bit of research to find out if there is a specific cause for the particular error message you’re getting (when you have one) or a known issue with certain programs or drivers that causes the behavior you’re seeing.

Often someone else has had a similar problem and will offer a solution. And it’s always a good idea to check for updates to any of your critical hardware drivers on the manufacturer’s Web site, although windows update helps keep you up to date.

BIOS Problems

Finally, the last and often trickiest to troubleshoot source of reboot problems: your computer’s BIOS. If there is a problem in your BIOS, or sometimes even in the firmware for one of the other pieces of hardware installed in your machine, it could cause an instability and lead to one of those automatic restarts that we talked about in the first section. Especially if the problem is in the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) portion. The good news is that these problems are much less common than they used to be in the bad old days. But it never hurts to check with your computer manufacturer to see if there’s an updated BIOS available.