Desktop SoftwareSecurity

What is the Difference Between Log Off, Restart, and Shut Down?

A concept users frequently have difficulty with is the difference between “logging off,” “restarting,” and “shutting down” a system. This article will clear that up.

Tech support staff will often instruct users to take a specific action, such as “log off your system” or “power down the system.” Confusion between these terms can cause problems and waste the time of the support staff and the end user, so these are good, simple terms to understand.

  • To shut down (or power down, or power off) a system means that, when the process of shutting down is complete, the machine is powered down, and it will not come back up again without a someone taking further action, e.g., powering it back on again. If you expect your system will be needed for maintenance or remote access by someone else, shutting it down effectively prevents this.
  • To restart (or reboot) a system means that the computer goes through a complete shutdown process, then starts back up again. This is frequently required after software installations or during troubleshooting.
  • To log off a system means that the user who is currently logged on has their session end, but leaves the computer running for someone else to use. This is faster than a full restart and, generally, a better choice during the course of the business day when a system is shared between multiple users.
  • To power on a system means that you simply press the power button and let the system come up to a login prompt.
  • If you enter your username and password, you have gone a step further and have logged on.

If support staff instructs you to take a specific action, it is in everyone’s best interest that you do exactly what was suggested, and not something else. For instance, if you are instructed to “power on” your system, just power it on, but do not enter your username and password. Similarly, if you are requested to log off, just log off, but do not shut it down.

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