Forcing Windows to obey

Question: When I try to shut down my computer, the Windows 98 screen says “Shutdown is in progress” but it never does finish shutting down. What should I do? —G.R.

Answer: A variety of issues can cause this problem and hunting the cause down can be about as fun as cutting the lawn with your toenail clippers.

I get reams of mail on the topic, so here’s a look at the causes, and some solutions. These solutions will also work in the event that your system shuts down and spontaneously reboots.

If a sound file is corrupted and it is set to play when Windows shuts down, it could be the source of the problem. Disable it through the Sound applet in Control Panel and remove any sound associated with “Exit Windows”.

Make sure that you have an up-to-date BIOS.

The BIOS is the area of the computer that controls the time and date as well as very low-level hardware controls. It comes to life when a computer is first switched on. It’s kind of a scoutmaster that checks that all the tents, food, and maps are on hand and that scouts are ready, before the troop goes on a hike.

Older computers that shipped with Windows 95 already installed are particularly vulnerable.

The BIOS can be updated using a floppy disk that you can get from your manufacturer. Sometimes, brand-name computer makers will mail you a BIOS update on disk or make BIOS updates available via their websites.

You can test to see if you have a troublesome BIOS by turning off IRQ Steering. This allows several PCI devices (cards in the computer like modems and sound or video adapters) to share the same interrupt request. That’s an address the computer assigns to devices.

Two cards on one IRQ is like two neighbors sharing a mail box. Everything works fine until one neighbor receives a delivery of 67 pounds of liver while they are away on holiday.

If the BIOS is not up-to-date, a computer can have shutdown issues even if no devices are sharing an IRQ.

To disable PCI bus IRQ Steering:

  1. Click Start, then choose Settings, then click Control Panel, and then double-click System. On the Device Manager tab, click System Devices.
  2. Double-click PCI Bus, click to clear the Use IRQ Steering check box on the IRQ Steering tab.
  3. Click OK, click the next OK, and then restart your computer.

  4. After you restart the computer, attempt to shut down your computer again.

If your computer now shuts down successfully, it means that your BIOS doesn’t support PCI bus IRQ Steering. You can live without this feature, but to get it back, you’ll need to either change a setting in your BIOS, or you may need a BIOS update. Your PC maker can help.

If you have a newer machine, you can disable fast shutdown, which is a feature of Windows 98 Second Edition that sometimes can hang a computer. To do this:

  1. Click the Start menu, then choose Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools, and then System Information.
  2. In the window that appears next, click the Tools menu and select System Configuration Utility.
  3. Select the General tab, and then click the Advanced button. On the dialogue box that appears, check Disable fast shutdown. Click OK to close the dialogue box.

It is possible that this feature won’t appear if your hardware doesn’t support it. (Incidentally, you’ll also see a feature on this list that says Disable scandisk after bad shutdown. Select this to prevent scandisk from running every time your computer starts up again after a bad shutdown.)

Microsoft has also issued a Windows 98 Second Edition Shutdown Supplement Installation. This patch may solve the problem if nothing else does.

Since the URL to the patch page is longer than this column, I’ve created a Web address that will take you straight there without any further ado. It’s Windows 98 Second Edition Shutdown Supplement.

If you have Windows 95, the above fixes won’t work. Windows ME, due out Sept. 14, will fix many of the above problems.

In the meantime, fix Windows 95 by disabling Advanced Power Management support. To do so, double-click the Power icon in your Control Panel, and set the Power Management setting to Off.