I have a Vista x64 PC that hangs intermittantly at shutdown (on the blue shutdown screen). Sometimes it shuts down normally; sometimes it sits on the shutdown screen forever.

Unfortunately I don't know when this started, so I can't isolate what software/driver is likely to be the culprit based on installation date. I'd rather not wipe this machine if I can avoid it.

Any tips as to how to go about diagnosing this issue?

Update - I'm not asking for someone to diagnose this for me - rather I'm asking for a set of general techniques and tools that I can use in future scenarios - I want to know how to diagnose the problem, as opposed to how to fix the problem.

  • Is this an appropriate question for serverfault? Just polling oppinion....
    – jjnguy
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 9:22
  • 1
    I'm not sure if the specific issue here is a corporate one, but this question could be easily applied to a corporate environment, which, in my opinion, makes this a perfectly valid question. Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 9:31
  • Well our company has exactly three people in it, so we're not exactly a massive corporation. But I do have to sort out the PCs, in between making the coffee.
    – stusmith
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 9:38
  • Absolutely! I've diagnosed many issues introduced by poorly implemented drivers and/or incompatible combinations of them resulting in a BSoD many times over the years for several IT organizations. (Even when the issue was caused by software drivers I wrote...) Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 9:40
  • Instead of troubleshooting it, here's a tip: REGEDIT then go to \HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management - find the key ClearPageFile at Shutdown and set it to 0. It can make a big difference. Also, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control - find key WaittoKillServiceTimeout and set it to 1000. Those two changes may change you mind about asking why.
    – SDsolar
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 19:13

5 Answers 5


Go to administrative tools and look at event logs, Look at the system tab and after sorting by date and time, find the last message before reboot.

Another more efficient way would be to first shutdown the pc, Look at your watch/clock/time piece at the point you think it has crashed, then reboot, look in the event log, in the system tab, sort by time then carefully read through the various processes that are being shutdown. The error message should be there.

If you are lucky, it might be a "pre-explorer-shutdown" (my own coining) process so if you start the task manager before you click shutdown, go to the processes tab, sort by cpu, then click on shutdown in the start watching for the process that is hogging the cpu during shutdown. This is only works if whatever is causing the process to crash is happening within the shell.

Troubleshooting is sometimes more an art than a science.

  • 1
    If I could edit this post I would. Must have taken a while to build that wall of text. Commented May 1, 2009 at 2:25

first I'd rule out the more common causes. I'd start with some registry cleaning tools, startup/shutdown organizers, and a sniffer on another machine in the LAN to see if the computer hangs on a network thing when shutting down. spybot s&g is probably a good idea also.


Examine the dump file generated by the OS. Microsoft provides a memory dump analyzer that will, in most cases, identify the culprit process. It's a free download with fairly complete instructions and examples available at microsoft.com.

  • Wouldn't work, its not crashing so no dump file is being generated. Its just getting stuck waiting on a process to close out.
    – Shial
    Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 18:21

Since you don't know when it started, I'd suggest disabling/uninstalling programs one at a time until you find the culprit. It's pretty slow and painstaking, but you'll find it eventually.

I recently found ZoneAlarm to be the fault on one machine, but I think there are quite a few possibilities.

Probably not going to be noticed now, but I've remembered an additional cause for shutting down problems. Sometimes a user profile can't be unloaded completely - have a look at this Microsoft Support article for more details.


Look at the event logs for anything that happened during the shutdown, and look at what happened when the computer restarted, sometimes a process will log it didn't shutdown properly.

Next use a tool like Process Explorer and look closely at what is running. Try to kill certain processes before you shutdown and see if the issue reoccurs, you can then rule out those tasks you killed as being the culprits. Look as well for tasks that might have been left behind by something you were doing. Do this each time until you can narrow down which processes seem to be the guilty party.

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