Windows Patching: Why Does My Computer Keep Rebooting?


One complaint common complaint among Windows operating system users is why does my computer reboot so frequently? Whether it for Windows updates or just when installing, uninstalling, or updating software, Windows will often ask to reboot. The operating system generally has to reboot because it cannot modify system files while they are still in use. While in use, these files are locked and updated/modified during the system reboot.

What Does Rebooting Do?

Windows cannot update or remove files that are in use. The system files, locked against any changes, prevents applying the downloaded new updates right away. Therefore, the system has to shutdown to add the new updates and make the required changes to the files when the computer boots again.

Reboots also become necessary when adding or removing certain software programs. An antivirus or a hardware driver hooked deep into the system will have files loaded onto the memory and protected against modification. Windows may need to reboot the computer and modify the files before the system fully starts up. Windows Update Reboots Microsoft typically releases patches for Windows, second Tuesday of each month, often referred to as “Patch Tuesday”. Most of these updates modify system files that can not update while Windows is running.

Not every Windows Update requires a reboot. For instance: some updates for Microsoft Office shouldn’t require a reboot as these files will unload from memory by simply restarting Office. One important reason Windows regularly ask you to reboot is security updates are not usually installed until you do. Microsoft introduced pop-ups that keep requesting you to restart your computer. Regular reboots are particularly important to perform when a new virus or hacker vulnerability’s discovered. Upon the discovery of these issues, Microsoft’s team of engineers work quickly to eliminate these risks and push out these updates as soon as possible. The updates can’t help if people wait days or weeks before rebooting remaining at risk the entire time.

How does Windows compare to other Operating systems

What About Linux or Other Operating Systems If you have ever used Linux or any other operating system, you may have noticed that Windows wants to reboot more often than most. On Windows, files that are being used are normally locked and cannot be modified or deleted. On the other hand Linux allows to modify or delete files in-use.

This means, on a Linux system, the system library files immediately updates without requiring a reboot. Any in-use files can likely be deleted immediately. However, the changes will not necessarily take effect until you reboot. For example, if you install an update for a system library, the files on disk update immediately, but any running processes using that library will still be using the old, insecure version. If you update a program, you cannot use the new version of that program until you close the program and restart it. In other words, a reboot is often still necessary to make sure important updates have taken effect on Linux just like Windows.

However, over time, rebooting has become less necessary. Windows can now swap out many types of drivers — graphics drivers, for example — without rebooting the system. Moreover, modern security features (like enabling the Windows Firewall) make Windows more secure offering a three-day grace period for rebooting after Windows Updates.

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Matt Parks

Matt Parks

About the Author: President & CEO, Matt has over 20 years building and leading high functioning teams
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