Computer power button trick: What does it do and why does it work?

When my computer goes wacko, due to low memory (RAM) there is a trick that I do with the power button, that seems to “fix” the problem. I learned about this from a Dell support tech, years ago.

  1. (Assuming that I’m able to) I shut down Windows & pc properly.
  2. While the entire unit is turned off, I then turn off the power strip.
  3. I depress and hold-in the power button, on the tower, for ten seconds.
  4. Sometimes, this makes the little LED on the tower power button blink on for moment, then it goes out, even though there’s no power.
  5. Release tower power button.
  6. Turn on power strip.
  7. Turn entire pc back on.
  8. problem fixed

What exactly does doing this trick do, and why does it work?

What it does is that if you do exactly what it says, you turn the machine completely off, then turn it back on again.

There may be something in ROM on the Dell motherboard that does some magic when you do this.

This may also cause a capacitor to discharge.

But most likely, it really guarantees that you just turned the computer off and back on again, which will tend to fix a great many errors in Windows, and this is something that is actually difficult for tech support people to talk people into doing. So, if they can get you to do this, then they know you turned the machine completely off and back on again.

**Ethilrist ** has got it.
This ensures that the PC is completely shut down and capacitors discharged.

This will solve most Ram problems.

Your reply makes a good deal of sense. I have another question.

It’s crystal clear to me why simply hitting: Start button / Shut Down / Restart may not, or would not fix any problems.

OTOH, I am a bit puzzeld as to why “the trick” differs from simply clicking Start button / Shut Down / Shut Down

How does turning off the power via “the trick” make the computer more turned off than a proper shut down?

Figuratively speaking: It seems that “the trick” sends whatever ghosts that are haunting my RAM, a packin! Whereas a proper normal shut down does not.

You’re probably right about “the trick” discharging something.

Many motherboards allow for various non-power button starts. Sometimes Keyboard and sometimes Ethernet. So just the shutdown may not turn of the power supply and may not completely remove the Memory state of the ram.

The Shutdown and Power Strip off kills all power to the PC and waiting 10 seconds is the magic number that is suppose to ensure residual power in the Power Supply Capacitors have discharged. This is all just rule of thumb Computer tech stuff.

Are any computers made in a such a way that a “normal” shutdown does discharge the capacitors, etc?

On an old AT type power supply, your procedure doesn’t mean diddley. Nobody (well ok, very few people) use AT power supplies any more. Now we use ATX power supplies, which have some smart circuitry in them which is always on, even when the computer is off. Your TV is the same way. Most of the computer (or TV, or stereo) is actually powered off, but there are small circuits in there which are active which are used to sense when you want the device turned on, and they turn it on. Your procedure insures that these little circuits are completely powered off, and goes to the extra trouble of discharging all of the capacitors in the power supply to make sure that they aren’t powering the circuits inside your computer too. Capacitors store energy, kind of like a battery. They are used in computers to smooth out variations in the power supply and keep things stable. Even when you turn something off, the capacitors inside it are still charged, and may have enough energy in them to power the really low power circuits inside for quite some time.

For the specific problem mentioned in the OP though (computer going haywire due to low RAM), the above procedure is meaningless. When you do a shut down -> restart the computer’s RAM will be cleared out anyway (on most motherboards, possibly not on some laptops). There’s no need on most computers to do anything other than that when you simply run out of RAM and swap space.

By the way, another trick if your computer is completely hosed and won’t let you do a shutdown, is that you simply hold in the power supply button for 10 to 15 seconds. On most computers, this will force the power supply to shut down the computer, even if the system isn’t functioning properly and windows refuses to do the shutdown for you.

Very few computers built in the last 5 years will completely power down.
I have most of my PC’s in surge protectors with easy to access buttons, so I can completely power them off.

I have 382 Mb RAM. I guess that’s not much by today’s standards. I have seen new pc’s in catalogs with over 4 gigabytes of RAM! :eek: If only I could afford such a machine!

I use a lot of java-heavy things, such as Yahoo! Games, message boards, chatrooms, and various instant messaging programs.

I try to run as few prog’s as possible, but it still doesn’t take long for my RAM to peter-out. I use msconfig and task manager to clear out the gunk I don’t need, as well as Norton Process Viewer. Norton Process Viewer rocks because it shows you all the crap that is running in behind the scenes, that task manager and msconfig won’t tell you about.

What else can I do to conserve RAM? Get rid of most desktop icons and the quick launch?

What operating system do you have?
What speed processor?

I can then supply hints and fixes.

Sounds like you have XP.

Quick Launch doesn’t hurt. Tools bar do. You can turn off the back ground display.
384 is low for XP. Java has a tendency for Memory leaks.

Mem has gotten very cheap.
If you have DDR ram in the PC, you could get a 512 chip for under $40+ S&H these days. It is worth it.
Look at a place like Tiger Direct

I am using a 2000 Dell with:
382 Mb SDRAM
Intel Pentium III at 550Mhz
Windows 98 SE

BTW: I don’t use desktop wallpapers, themes, or any of that stuff.

Here is another reason why this is a good idea.

Processors and ASICs (chip sets) are designed with reset inputs. Asserting this input is supposed to put the processor in a known state, and the design of this is done very carefully. (I’ve sat through hours long meetings about this.) But there is a time budget for reset, and not everything in a processor actually gets changed. So, it is possible that just doing a soft reset leaves something hosed.

Are memories actually cleared during a reset? I’d have guessed that all the cache bits (data and instruction) get invalidated, which would more or less have the same effect in much less time. It takes quite a while to write every word in a modern memory, and I don’t see any reason anyone would want to.

Okay, you have plenty of Ram for Windows 98 SE. There is no need to add more.

The Machine is probably doing a good job. Sounds like you are doing the right things. MSCONFIG, Startup tab is the biggest savings of Memory and you are already doing this.
The IM Clients generally are tough of Memory. This may be your prime problem.
Java is also tough, but as the IM and the JAVA games are major reasons you have a PC my only remaining good advice is to budget and save money for a cheap E-machine with XP-Home and at least 512MB of Ram and a Processor of 2.4 Gigahertz or better.
I have seen these in sales for the $300 to $400 price range and I have seen some HP/Compacts in the same range.

Your PC is probably nearing obsolesces for your needs. Do not upgrade to XP as it will actually make it worse.

Save for a new, low end PC.


Basically it differs from regular Start->Shutdown… , power off and power on again in that it LOOKS LIKE A TRICK. That’s pretty much it. Basically this way the tech people are guaranteed that you follow the instructions and turn off your computer as opposed to just saying “Yeah, I turned it on and off and that didn’t fix it” (most people will not power cycle their computer if asked).

Some time ago I found a freeware program called Memory Cleaner (memclnr.exe). It puts an icon on your desktop, and when thing get slow, I click that and it frequently retreives 200-300 of my 512 of memory.

There are a bunch of other memory retreivers that seem to work pretty well. Try Googling.

I’m generally fairly reluctant to advise a switch from a Windows OS (95, 98, ME) to an NT OS (NT 4, 2000, XP), but in this case the above programs will all run MUCH better on 2000 or XP. You probably have memory leaks in your applications, meaning that your programs allocate memory and forget to give it back to the operating system when they are done with it, so they slowly chew up more and more memory until you eventiually run out. If you doubled the physical RAM you’d just be delaying the inevitable. Even with 10 times as much RAM you are still going to run out of memory.

(Nitpick - if you go over 512 MB of RAM on 98 it will cause problems, but that’s a different issue, and there is a way around it, but let’s not hijack this discussion)

For the software you are using, 2000 or XP will both run just fine on your machine. XP is more of a resource hog though.

Does the 98 task manager let you see how much memory each task is using? If not I think there are some utilities you can download for free to get that kind of info. I suspect JAVA is the primary offender. If you use AIM, uninstall all of the crap that it installs by default. My kids put AIM on their 98 computers, and the computers almost wouldn’t run afterwards. I cleaned AIM out, and then installed AIM and only AIM and the systems ran a lot better. I don’t have experience with other IM programs, but be careful about what spyware and crap they install in the background. Spyware in particular is good at sucking up resources like there is no tomorrow. Adaware and Spybot would be good things to run. They might clear out a few nasties which are hogging up some of your RAM.

I’ve tried on a couple of different systems to keep portions of the RAM intact during a reset and found out the hard way that it just doesn’t seem to be possible. The memory scrub happens far too quickly for them to be clearing it out word by word. I suspect the reset pulse on the motherboard is causing the RAM to clear but I haven’t researched it to find out for certain. It may just be the fact that the memory isn’t being refreshed during the reset that causes it to clear out.

Being able to power down by holding the button is a nice part of the ATX form factor. It is no more of a trick than going to the back of your tower and flipping the switch or unplugging the computer. Heck, there was a time between having a big honking switch (it was big and red on my family’s IBM PC back when 286 was great) and the ATX form that made it really hard to shut down a computer if it hung without having to physically pull the plug.

As for the instability and memory leaks, not much you can do. I used to run Jibreel Anti-Crash when I used WinME. That might take care of some of your problems.

Holding your power button down for five-ten seconds forces, on some machines, the computer to power off. If pushing the power button on a computer that is unplugged does something else, i’d like to see a cite for it.

Pushing the power button on a computer that is unplugged does nothing most of the time. However, you will be surprised how many people will screw up the “unplugged” bit, and if they do, they’ll know because it will turn on! The instructions are designed to look special to make sure you follow them and not disregard them, the trick is a psychological one and not a technical one. It assures the computer is powered off and on completely.

ECG< yes, I too, have suspected memory leakage. I can’t prove it’s there, but I am aware of the likelihood and have read-up on that type of thing.
Here’s some more info about my system:
[li]I have Ad Aware and use/update it often.[/li][li]I regularly use Norton Utilities, which does all kinds of good stuff, such as defragging, registry repairs, etc etc.[/li][li]Norton also has a System Information program which does, in fact, show exactly what program is using exactly how much of memory, threads, etc.[/li][*]I do use AIM & Yahoo, and always have used the “custom install,” when available, to minimize the garbage.[/ul]