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How To Power Cycle A PC? [Definitive Guide]

Learn how to fix most of the errors by power cycling the PC.

While computers are a great source to work efficiently, they sometimes freeze or hang up. For that reason, it is important to check your computer on a day-to-day basis. One simple way to do so is by power cycling a PC. However, what is it, and how to power cycle a PC?

Key Takeaways

  • Power cycling is a quick and effective way to troubleshoot and fix issues within a computer.
  • Although power cycles can cause data losses, users only do it when their PCs are frozen.
  • You can power cycle your PC via the task manager or by performing a force reboot

What Is Power Cycling?

Power button
A Power button on a PC Case. Image Credits: Rockpapershotgun

Power cycling is a process where you restart the hardware components of a PC by cutting off the supply. The practice is usually done to fix random freezes, stutters, and program crashes. It isn’t uncommon for many data centers and server PCs to run for long periods without reboots, which can cause them to slow down.

Therefore, it is common practice to power cycle PCs whenever possible. It is neither difficult to do nor extremely dangerous โ€” in most cases. Also, when discussing power cycling, we must differentiate between the different types of reboots.

First, discussing the more common reboot, let’s examine soft reboots. Every time your PC restarts or shuts down by itself and turns back on without losing power is called a soft reboot. So, when you click on the start menu and press the restart button, you’re conducting a soft reboot.

Restart for power cycling
Restarting a PC. Image Credits [Tech4Gamers]
On the other hand, the second kind of reboot is called a hard reboot. To conduct the following reboot, we must drain all the electricity stored within certain parts of a motherboard.

So, to do that, we usually hold the power button for around 30 seconds, draining all the electricity. Upon letting go, electricity starts flowing back, and the motherboard becomes functional again. Hard reboots are also called power cycles, and simply restarting the flow of electricity can eliminate many errors you might be facing while running your PC.

Also Read: Computer Turns On And Off Repeatedly

How To Power Cycle A PC

After learning what power cycling is, it’s time we see how to power cycle through numerous steps. Although the name differs, a power cycle is only minutely different from a normal restart. So, it would be best if you didn’t worry about harming your computer. Rather, not power cycling can lead to more damage at times because the cycle only clears RAM. There are several steps in power cycling a PC.

Use Task Manager

Sometimes, your PC might not be responsive due to a program not responding in the background. You must open the task manager to determine which programs might not respond.

Press the “Ctrl,” “Shift,” and “Esc” keys or the “Ctrl,” “Shift,” and “Del” keys to open the task manager. Now, in the “Processes” tab, hover around until you find any programs that are not responding and close them by right-clicking and clicking on “End Task.”

Power cycle a PC through task manager
Using task manager to close unresponsive software. Image Credits [Tech4Gamers]
After closing all the problematic programs and software, you should see that you can use your PC properly. However, if the stutters persist, you might want to restart your PC for better measures.

Also, it’s important to note that if you similarly close programs as stated above, you will lose all unsaved data. Therefore, if you have an old PC or are using high-end software with minimal RAM, keep saving your files every moment.

On the other hand, if there were no unresponsive programs when you checked your task manager, there might be a small issue with your RAM. Moreover, to fix that issue, a restart might warrant a fix, else you will need to look for potential hardware issues.

Also Read: PC Ran Into A Problem And Needs To Restart

Force Reboot

If the task manager step doesn’t work, you should try restarting your PC manually. However, if the PC doesn’t restart, you must forcefully reboot the system. That is to say; for a forced reboot, you must press and hold down the power button for a longer period. In most cases, depending on the PC, the computer should forcefully restart after ~30 seconds. Although, it might take longer too.

After the PC has completely shut down and the fans have stopped whirring, let go of the power button. Furthermore, turn off the power supply so that no electricity is transmitted to the PC. Wait for a few seconds, and then press the power button to restart your PC normally.

The forced reboot will help make the PC faster and eliminate certain errors you might be facing. For example, if your USB port stops working suddenly, you might want to try power cycling your PC. Similarly, connection problems with peripherals, such as the PS5 controller not working on the PC, might get fixed through a restart.

In case you can’t close your PC even by holding down the power button, you will need to switch off the main power to the PC. However, doing so can harm the hardware, so we don’t suggest taking such measures unless necessary.

Re-Insert The RAM

Re-insert RAM for power cycle PC
XPG Lancer RGB 6000MHz DDR5 RAM kit. Image Credits [Tech4Gamers]
If the first restart after the power cycle doesn’t improve performance, you might have to take out the RAM directly. To explain, the main purpose of a power cycle is to clear the RAM and any extra electricity in the motherboard. So, if the power cycle doesn’t show results, there’s either a problem with the hardware, or you need to insert your RAM modules again.

Therefore, take out the RAM modules and let them rest for a few minutes. Now, place the RAM back in the motherboard properly and restart your computer. You will see that your computer is running much faster than before because the RAM was cleared.

Although, we don’t recommend doing the procedure often as it might damage the RAM modules or the RAM slots. Thus, only follow the procedure when your computer becomes extremely slow and laggy. 

Clear The CMOS

CMOS Battery
A CMOS battery on a motherboard.

The last thing you can attempt while power cycling your PC to make it faster is to clear your CMOS. While removing the CMOS battery and clearing the CMOS seems like a daunting task, it isn’t much different from re-inserting RAM sticks. So, if the RAM step didn’t help you, look toward the CMOS step.

Before you take out the CMOS battery, ensure that your PC is completely off and there is no flow of electricity. Moreover, you can turn off your power supply button and the main power socket.

Now, open the computer case and look for the CMOS battery. Once located, take it out and let it rest for around 5 minutes. After you have let it rest enough, please put it back in place and restart your PC.

Once your computer restarts, you will see it running faster than before. To explain, clearing the CMOS can help motherboards recover due to going back to default settings. So, these are a few ways to power cycle a PC that can help make it faster.

Why Power Cycle A PC?

Power cycling is an easy, quick, and effective way to troubleshoot hardware issues and solve many problems. For example, if your PC is frozen and unresponsive, you should restart it. Or, if your PC suddenly stops recognizing your peripherals, you should restart it. Furthermore, if there’s a RAM leak, you should restart the computer to fix the issues.

To explain, when you power cycle your computer, every hardware component and software starts anew. So a memory leak, for instance, occurs when a program or software does not run properly, but the RAM required is allocated. Thus, the RAM cannot be used for other applications and requires a restart or power cycle to fix.

Furthermore, if your peripherals stop working suddenly, it is usually due to a driver issue. Sometimes the drivers of certain peripherals can crash, which makes them inaccessible for Windows. In such cases, a power cycle helps restart the drivers from scratch, fixing the issue.

Moreover, many more issues can easily be solved through a simple reboot or power cycle, which is why it’s the first instinct of many technicians when you take your computer for repairs. Therefore, if you face issues where your PC is running slowly or other issues that don’t have any fixes, try power cycling your computer.

Also Read: Case Fan Not Spinning: Causes & Fixes

Is Power Cycling Harmful?

Essentially, a hard reboot or a power cycle isn’t harmful. However, quick restarts and power cycles can be harmful under certain circumstances. For instance, a restart can be harmful when updating your operating system (OS) and accidentally restart during the middle of the update. If that happens, you will probably have a corrupted computer and need new parts.

Secondly, it can be harmful to power cycle a PC if you unknowingly download malware that affects the bootup. Chances are that the malware won’t let you get past the bootup screen, and you will find yourself in an endless loop.

Other than that, hard reboots are essentially harmless in today’s world. Due to the power cycling process draining all the electricity from the motherboard, the operating system never knows about the shutdown process. Thus, the operating system doesn’t close applications properly, record necessary log files, or perform maintenance. Also, while it sounds dangerous, it isn’t harmful.

On the other hand, the worst-case scenario for a power cycle is when the OS is reading/writing data. In such scenarios, the file where the data was being written will likely get corrupted, and all data will be lost. Furthermore, if the drive was a Hard Disk Drive (HDD), there’s a slight chance it could stop working.

However, because we usually only conduct a power cycle when the PC is frozen, it’s unlikely there will be any data corruption. Moreover, you’re more likely to see data corruption due to sudden power outages. Therefore, you shouldn’t be afraid of doing a hard reboot if your PC isn’t responding or there are other similar issues. If you’re conducting hard reboots on an open-air test bench, read our article on how to turn on a PC motherboard without a power button!

Tips And Warnings For Power Cycling

Tips for power cycling a computer.

Because power cycling sounds a bit harmful and difficult, here are a few tips and warnings, so you know what to do and what not to do.

  • While power cycling fixes many issues, it cannot fix everything. If your system freeze is not solved through a power cycle, the problem probably lies with the hardware. Essentially, if it’s a laggy computer, your storage devices might be nearing their end. Try taking them out one at a time and see if the problem is resolved. If not, it could be other hardware or a malware problem.
  • It is not recommended to cut off the power to the computer by taking out the main power chord connected to the back of the PC. While the power will be cut off, it can cause serious hardware damage and data corruption.
  • Conducting power cycles can cause data loss, data corruption, and in severe cases, a storage failure.
  • If power cycling doesn’t shut down the computer, only then should you remove the main power plug.

Conclusion

To conclude, knowing how to power cycle a PC is an important skill as the method is easy and effective for fixing certain issues within a computer. However, there is a rare chance of either losing data or damaging storage devices. Other than that, power cycling is a great measure for many troubleshooting scenarios.

Furthermore, power cycling doesn’t only end with restarting the PC a certain way. Sometimes, using the task manager can be useful if your computer lags. Whereas, at others, you might even need to resort to clearing the CMOS.

Lastly, when you face an issue, the first form of troubleshooting should be through a hard reboot. Upon failure, you should look for other solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does power cycling a PC do?

Power cycling a PC clears RAM and any extra electricity within a motherboard. Unlike a normal reboot, all software and hardware restart anew through a power cycle.

Is power cycling the same as a restart?

A power cycle is a restart. However, unlike normal restarts where software isn’t completely closed, a power cycle closes all hardware and software.

How long should I wait before restarting my PC after I attempt a power cycle?

Depending on your hardware, waiting for anywhere near 30 seconds to 5 minutes should clear all electricity within your computer.

Also Read: How To Connect Power Button To Motherboard

 
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Abde Manaf
Abde Manaf
Abdemanaf has been a creative writer since 2011. He first dwelled in the tech world in early 2015 and has since compared many product offerings by different companies. Abdemanaf started working for Tech4Gamers in February 2022 as a blog and comparison writer.

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