How Not to Shut Down a "Frozen" Computer

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN


I know I should buy a new computer, but I’ve been hanging in until Vista comes out, at which time I’ll buy a preloaded machine. In the meantime, my cranky computer sometimes freezes up and I can’t even turn it off. I try clicking the power button on the face of the computer. Nothing. Finally I resort to pulling the plug. Will that harm the computer? Is there a better way?

Yes to both questions. Each time you pull the plug, the sudden, unprogrammed loss of electricity endangers the hard disk. But sometimes pulling the plug is the only way to shut it down—risk or not.

Fortunately, there is another choice that works most of the time: Hold down the power button for several seconds. Most computer power buttons are designed not to react to an accidental or momentary click to disengage the power. You’ve got to click and hold.

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