4 Tools to Prevent, Cancel and Abort a Windows System Shutdown or Restart when Applications are Running

Correctly shutting down a Windows computer is very important. Not only can Windows files become corrupted with a sudden and improper shutdown, the hard drive will probably get the dirty bit set and need a scan for errors. Not only that, it’s entirely possible to lose any work that hasn’t been saved before the computer is turned off or rebooted. This is an error common to new computer users turning off the computer without saving documents and closing opened applications first.

One of the most common problems with Windows itself is the Windows Update service which can automatically restart your computer without your say so, although there are ways to stop this from happening. There are also many other applications which can ask for a reboot either after installation or when an update has been applied, you may even have a program configured to shutdown the computer when it’s finished its task such as downloading or encoding video etc. However, there are times when you might want the computer to stay on because some important programs are running or you’re doing some important tasks. It could be frustrating or even disastrous if the computer decides to reboot itself because you have forgotten or wasn’t aware of a scheduled shutdown. Here are 4 tools that can help prevent Windows shutting down or restarting until you want it to.

1. ShutdownGuard

ShutdownGuard is a plain and simple little program that will sit in your system tray and prevent Windows from shutting down, rebooting or logging off. Depending on your operating system you will be warned of a shutdown attempt differently. A tray balloon popup will appear in Windows XP to notify of a shutdown attempt and clicking on the text will perform a real shutdown. In Windows Vista and above, you’ll get the “Programs still need to close” window with the option to cancel or force a shutdown.

shutdown guard blocking a logoff attempt

There are a few options available in the tray menu for ShutdownGuard such as hiding the tray icon, disabling the program temporarily and forcing a shutdown, but there are a few other configuration settings held in an ini file which can be edited with Notepad. The small message Windows Vista users and above will see on the close screen can be configured, the program can be made to behave silently and you can switch between the five available languages. Portable 32-bit and 64-bit versions are available along with a setup installer.

Download ShutdownGuard


2. Don’t Sleep

Don’t Sleep is quite possibly the best tool around to prevent a computer from shutting down, restarting, sleeping or hibernating, and can do all this and more from a program that’s well under 100KB in size! It’s also fully multilingual with around 20 different languages supported and even has a potentially very useful feature of being able to control several of the main functions remotely from any web browser.

don't sleep main window prevent shutdown options

To be able to use the basic function of blocking a shutdown, restart, sleep, hibernate or logoff, all you have to do is run the program and then minimize it to the tray. If anything tries to perform one of those options, it will be prevented from doing so. Don’t Sleep also has a timer function where you can set a specific time or countdown after which you can choose to stop blocking or force a shutdown/sleep. The screensaver and monitor off box is optional and only needed if you want to keep the display visible at all times.

Don’t Sleep is a portable standalone executable that works on Windows 2000 right up to Windows 8 64-bit, use the Options button if you want to start it with Windows and control any timed delays for when the program will start blocking after a boot or resume.

Download Don’t Sleep

3. Shut It!

Shut It! is a bit of a dual mode shutdown utility because in addition to the standard monitoring function of intercepting shutdowns and restarts etc, it can also watch for specific application processes or windows and perform a different action for those that match. For example, you could let the system shutdown normally if none of the checked programs match, but cancel the shutdown or warn you beforehand if something matches from the predefined list.

Prevent Computer Restart with Shut It

The number of actions you can perform on a shutdown check is slightly different depending on your operating system. Windows XP and newer have Do nothing, Cancel and Show warning dialog available, while XP alone also has Abort/Continue on timeout and Standby/Hibernate on timeout options where you can set a timeout in seconds. To select a task to check, simply click the Task list button and find the running process or open the Wnd list choose an open window. You can also use matching text for the process or window using exact, contains or compare options.

In the tray menu is also an option to schedule a shutdown/logoff and there’s quick access to all the standard shutdown options. Although official compatibility only goes as far as Vista, it also works fine on windows 7.

Download Shut It


4. Free USB Guard

As you can probably tell from the name, Free USB Guard isn’t a generic program to stop anything shutting down Windows, but is a more focused tool that will actually warn you and halt a shutdown/restart/logoff attempt if you have a USB flash drive or another type of removable drive such as a portable hard drive still attached to the system. There’s also the added ability to prevent a shutdown and remind you if a CD or DVD disc is present in any of your optical drives.

free usb guard shutdown options

Although the program is portable and donationware, it does come bundled with optional adware which needs to be opted out of during the initial launch. Once you run USB Guard, it will sit in the system tray and do nothing until you try to shutdown, logoff, sleep or hibernate the computer with a USB removable drive attached. At this point, it will halt the shutdown process and popup a window similar to above and warn a device is still attached. If you’re happy to leave it connected, simply choose one of the options to end the session from the window.

You can also choose to open the safely remove dialog window so USB devices can be ejected safely. Do note that the optical drive monitoring is not enabled by default and it needs to be turned on by right clicking the tray menu, specific drive letters can also be monitored from the same menu. Free USB Guard requires .NET 3.5 and works on Windows XP and above.

Download Free USB Guard

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