Most of us use the Start Menu to shut our Windows system down, but is it possible to cause damage if you choose to use the Command Line instead? Are there any particular commands that could cause damage while others do not? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a worried reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Screenshot courtesy of Acid Pix (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader FlipFloop wants to know if using Windows CMD to shut down a computer can cause damage:

When you launch shutdown -i to shut down a computer via the command prompt (CMD), does it damage the computer that is being turned off (either locally or remotely)?

Does using Windows CMD to shut down a computer cause damage?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors Marco Bonelli and LPChip have the answer for us. First up, Marco Bonelli:

The shutdown command in Windows performs a normal shutdown/reboot/logoff on the computer (locally or remotely). If you closed all of your running programs and saved your files, there is no difference between running any shutdown command (with any parameter) or using the Windows interface via the Start Menu. The command does not damage the computer or file system in any way.

More About Running Programs

If any programs preventing the shutdown are running, Windows will automatically try to terminate them and, if that is not possible, will prompt you about it. The only problem you can have here arises with programs performing unsaved changes to files. If they provide an automatic recovery of improperly closed sessions like Microsoft Office for example, they will save their state to recover it on the next start, otherwise you will lose the unsaved data.

Followed by the answer from LPChip:

No, it will not. When you use the Start Menu to shut down a computer, it will also use the same shutdown command, just with different parameters.

The shutdown -i option was made to expose features that the Windows Start Menu does not offer without use of the Command Line. For example, shutdown -i can be used to send a shutdown command to another computer.

In the same fashion that shutdown -i will not damage your computer, neither will shutdown -s -t 0.

There is also the -f option, which is used to force a shutdown. This will not damage your Windows system, but it may cause any unsaved data (such as an unsaved open word document) to be lost.

Normally, Windows will show you a dialog of some sort like, “There is a program preventing shutdown. Do you want to cancel or continue anyway?” A timeout will eventually abort the shutdown. With the -f option, instead of showing you the message, it will assume that you wish to continue anyway and close any remaining programs.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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