How to Shut Down Windows 8 (Full Shutdown and Normal Hybrid Shutdown)

Turning off Windows 8: Hybrid Shutdown (Partial Hibernation) as well as Real Shutdown

How to Shut Down Windows 8 (Full Shutdown and Normal Hybrid Shutdown)

Windows 8 presents many problems for the user (both new and experienced). Among the first issues you will encounter is the question of how to shut the computer down when you're through using it. There are however 2 aspects of this, both of which will be addressed in this article. The first is the simple question of how to turn off your computer, since the user interface provides no clue on how you can do this. The second aspect is for the advanced user who, may for various reasons, need Windows 8 to be fully shut down. The default shutdown procedure for Windows 8 is commonly referred to as a "Hybrid Shutdown": it shares some characteristics with both the "Hibernation" option and a complete power off, but is not identical to either.

I will address the basic user interface problem of how to turn off your computer first. If you already know that, and are here simply to find out how to get Windows to do a real shutdown, skip to the next section.

How do I Turn Off a Windows 8 Computer?

  1. Move your mouse pointer to the top right corner of your screen. If nothing happens, just keep moving the mouse slowly in that region. There are no buttons, icons or any sort of hint that gives you a reason to move your mouse there, but that's the place you need to go to start the multi-step procedure to powering off your computer.

    If you hit the magic spot, a narrow panel will slide into view on the right side of the screen. Go immediately to the next step. If your reflexes are slow or you wait too long (either because you are trying to figure out what the icons mean or have a physical disability), the panel will disappear, and you'll have to move your mouse away and back again to reacquire this panel.

  2. Click the "Settings" icon. This is the picture that looks like a gear at the bottom of the panel. Yes, I know it doesn't make sense to have the shutdown facility hidden in the configuration settings. (It's comparable to putting the front door of your house in the toilet.) But that's where it is, so there's no help for it.

  3. A new side panel, called "Settings", will replace the previous panel. You will see, probably to your surprise, that the "Power" icon is found here (at the bottom of the panel). Click it.

  4. A submenu will appear. Click the "Shut down" item in that menu.

  5. This will cause Windows to terminate your running programs, log you off the system, and seemingly shut down the computer.

  6. Warning: if you use a desktop computer or a laptop that doesn't have a charged battery, do not unplug the main power when the screen goes dark. If your computer has hardware lights (or LEDs) on the casing that show you that the hard disk is still active, or that the power supply is still being used, wait till all those lights go out before unplugging anything. Be prepared to wait. It takes a while after the screen goes dark before it is truly shut down.

    As you may already have expected from developers who think it's a good idea to put the shutdown facility in the configuration section, Windows 8 turns the screen off early to give you the illusion that it has shut down quickly. Unfortunately, if you believe this illusion and act on it, you will corrupt your system, since it will still be writing things to your hard disk.

For computer users with low self-confidence: don't worry. Your inability to find a way to shut down Windows 8 (or do many other things with Windows 8 for that matter) is not because computers are too complex for you or that you're not smart enough. The deficiency lies with Windows 8, not you. Even experienced users have problems finding out how to do basic things in Windows 8.

One of the tenets of designing a good user interface ("User Interface Design 101", if you will) is to try to make things easy for users to find and use so that they don't need too much prior knowledge or have to memorize anything. Modern software provide visual cues that let you figure out how you can get things done. Very often, this is in the form of a menu, where you can get a list of tasks that describe what the program can do.

The shutdown facility in Windows 8 has no visual cue whatsoever leading up to it. There is neither icon, nor button, nor prompt nor any hint that will cause you to think that moving your mouse to the upper right corner of the screen will do anything. As such, unless you are suffering from a muscular dysfunction that makes you jerk your mouse pointer wildly in uncontrollable random jerks across the screen, you will never discover this mysterious panel (which, in a failure of vocabulary, is called the "Charms" panel, a name with no connection to either its appearance or its function).

Not only is there no way for you to find the Settings icon under normal-use conditions, even if you finally do find out about its existence, if you are a sane, logical person with a modicum of common sense, you will most likely not suspect that the power switch is categorised ("categorized" in US English) as a customisation tool. (It's like saying that the ability to turn on and off an electrical appliance is a customisation option for that gadget.)

In other words, your difficulty in shutting down Windows 8 is not a reflection of your competence. You are just not the target demographic for Windows 8: it's for people with muscle control problems ("Oh look! In my last spastic jerk of the mouse, I discovered a new feature!") who also suffer severe lapses in logic ("I know! The way to turn off the computer must be in the customisation settings.").

Note: you can also shut down the computer by using the usual "Alt+F4" keyboard shortcut from the desktop. However, Alt+F4 will not work from the Start screen, so you need to get rid of that first. (Alt+F4 means holding down the Alt key on your keyboard while hitting F4.) If you don't understand this paragraph, and have never heard of Alt+F4, just ignore it and use the method mentioned earlier. Modern systems (with the exception of Windows 8) are designed so that the average (non-geek) person doesn't have to learn arcane things like this.

Another alternative to using the above cumbersome and unintuitive procedure is to install a third-party start menu into Windows 8. These are software written by other frustrated users that mimic the old Windows start menu. They have additional features like being able to boot directly to the desktop instead of the start screen, giving you a button to shut down the computer from the menu, and a way to efficiently look for and run all your installed programs. The start menus are free, and can be found on's Free Start Menus for Windows 8 page at

Situations Where You May Need to Do a Full (Genuine) Shutdown in Windows 8

If you are a novice Windows user, and have arrived at this website merely to find out how to turn off your Windows 8 computer, you can skip the rest of this article. This section onwards is mainly intended for people who either boot multiple operating systems on the same computer, or who need to run things like boot disks to back up the computer or rescue disks to get rid of viruses and the like. In fact, if the previous sentence did not make sense to you (eg, "what on earth is an operating system?"), chances are that the rest of this article will be both irrelevant and incomprehensible to you.

When you shut down Windows 8 using the method suggested above, by default, you're not actually shutting it down completely, the way you did in earlier versions of Windows. Even though the menu item is called "Shut down", Windows actually does a partial hibernation, which is why the shutdown process takes so long. It does this so that it can boot to Windows faster the next time you turn on the computer; that is, you trade a quick shutdown for a fast startup.

For those who want a slightly more detailed description, the new "Shut down" option actually terminates all your programs and logs you out of the system. Then it writes to the hard disk the contents of your system memory (the RAM), which includes things like the core Windows system (called the "kernel"), the drivers and the services (background system programs). The next time you turn your computer on, Windows merely loads what it previously saved, and does minimal initialisation of the hardware, which is why the startup in Windows 8 is faster than in previous Windows versions.

This shutdown method is known as a "hybrid shutdown". It is also referred to as "Fast Startup" in certain parts of the Windows 8 user interface. It differs from the normal Hibernation in that the latter saves everything currently running (including user programs, etc). The intention of the hybrid shutdown is to give the user some of the benefits of a full shutdown (complete power off and some hardware reinitialisation) while still providing a quick startup time.

Although this feature is useful for a large number of people (possibly even the majority), you may need to override or even disable this feature under certain circumstances. Here are some instances that I can think of where you may want to do this:

  1. If you run multiple operating systems on the same computer, for example, you run Windows 8 in one partition on your hard disk and dual-boot to Linux in another, and you access one or more shared drives or partitions in both systems, you may want to completely disable this hybrid shutdown facility.

  2. If you back up your computer from a boot CD, DVD or even USB flash drive, you may need to make sure that Windows was not previously shut down using the hybrid shutdown method prior to booting your CD (or DVD or thumb drive).

  3. If you are planning to run an antivirus scan from a rescue disk, the system should probably not have been shut down with the hybrid shutdown prior to booting your antivirus disk.

I qualified all the above statements with "may" and "probably" because I'm not really sure whether it's needed or not. However, I personally feel that erring on the side of caution is prudent. The reason for this is that I'm not sure whether Windows saves its in-memory representation of the hard disk file system structures in the hibernation file when it enters its hybrid shutdown. If it does, and the other operating system modifies the same hard disk, then Windows 8's understanding of the hard disk layout is going to be wrong when it resumes. For example, if your other system saved a file called "'s URL" that previously wasn't there in Windows 8 into a partition shared with Windows 8, and you resume Windows 8, the latter will think that the portion of the disk currently occupied by that new file is still empty since its internal map of the hard disk, kept in RAM, will not contain the changes made by the other system. This will lead to system corruption and lost data.

It's possible that things will be okay if you don't actually mount the same partitions in the different operating systems that you load. And it's also possible that it will always be okay and that Windows has a mechanism to detect that the disk was modified in the interim since it was last shutdown and will simply reload the disk structures from the disk. However, since I'm not sure of any of these things, my preference is (if I were in this boat) to do a real shutdown before any such potentially risky operation. In fact, when there are 2 or more operating systems sharing a single computer, my policy is not to allow any of those operating systems to hibernate or its equivalent (hybrid shutdown).

Anyway, it's your choice whether you want to do this. It is, after all, your computer and your data. I personally will not want to take the risk, since I don't know whether Windows (or any other operating system for that matter) was written to cope with this not-so-commonplace situation. But as implied above, I have no inside knowledge of Windows 8, so I could be entirely wrong about the need to do it.

I should also mention that if you always start your other operating system (or boot disk) by rebooting from Windows 8 instead of directly booting from a powered off state, you probably don't need to do a full shutdown of Windows 8 beforehand. I'm given to understand that Windows 8 always does a full shutdown before rebooting. It only does its hybrid shutdown when you're actually trying to power off the computer.

How to Really Shut Down Windows 8 (and Not Hybrid Shutdown or Hibernation)

Whether or not you agree with my list of possible scenarios where you might want to do a full shutdown of Windows 8, the following are several ways in which you can accomplish this should you need to.

Copyright © 2013 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved. Get more "How To" guides and tutorials from

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