Correctly shutting down a Windows computer is very important. Not only can Windows files become corrupted with a sudden and improper shutdown, but the boot drive can also 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.
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 that can ask for a reboot either after installation or when an update has been applied. You may even have a program configured to shut down the computer when it’s finished its specific task.
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 were not aware of a scheduled shutdown. Here are 8 free tools that can help prevent Windows from shutting down or restarting until you want it to.
1. Shutdown Blocker
While Shutdown Blocker is incredibly easy to use, it also has a couple of functions that could be useful. The first is a checkbox to help intercept and block shutdown.exe and MusNotification.exe (Windows update restarts), another is the option to hide the tray icon to help keep the program running if someone wants to turn it off.
Simply run the portable executable and it will start blocking straight away. Check the extra intercept box if required and then press Hide to send the program to the tray. Options to disable the tray icon, start Shutdown Blocker with Windows, and allow critical errors messages trying to steal focus are in the Settings window. You can also start Shutdown Blocker from the command line with a few options.
PreventTurnOff is one of the best tools around to prevent a computer from shutting down, restarting, sleeping, or hibernating. It can do all this and more from a program that’s well under a Megabyte in size. It’s also fully multilingual and even has a potentially very useful feature of being able to control several of the main functions remotely from any web browser.
To be able to use the basic function of blocking a shutdown, restart, sleep, hibernate, or log off, 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. PreventTurnOff 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 are optional and only needed if you want to keep the display visible at all times. Portable and installer versions are available.
3. Don’t Sleep
We won’t spend too much time talking about Don’t Sleep as it’s by the same developer as PreventTurnOff and has the same base features. However, Don’t Sleep has some additional functions some may find useful, such as disabling the block at a certain battery level, on a specific CPU load, and on a set network load.
There’s also an additional tab called “Please Sleep” that can put the computer to sleep after keyboard or mouse events. Other than that and some user interface changes, there really isn’t much else that separates PreventTurnOff and Don’t Sleep. Use whichever program offers the functions you require.
On the face of it, Amphetamine is a simple and useful tool that can block the screensaver and put the system to sleep as well as shutdown and restart. However, in the settings, there are some quite advanced functions that could prove valuable to some users. These include running a program, sending an email when a block occurs, and making sure specific services/programs are started.
The only three options in the main window are Prevent Screensaver, Prevent Sleep Mode, and Prevent Shutdown/Restart. All are enabled by default and you can just click Apply Now to send the program to the system tray. One disappointment we had with Amphetamine was it never prevented our test computer from being put to sleep. This may or may not be machine specific.
5. Shut It!
Shut It! is a bit of a dual mode shutdown utility. 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 shut down normally if no checked programs match, but cancel the shutdown or warn if something matches from the list.
Each dropdown menu action will have Do nothing, Cancel the Shutdown, and Show Warning Dialog. To select a task process to check, click the Task list button and find the running process or open the Wnd list and 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 Windows Vista, it also works fine on windows 10.
6. 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. Instead, it’s a more focused tool that will actually halt a shutdown/restart/logoff attempt if you have a USB flash drive or another type of removable drive still attached to the system. There’s also the added ability to prevent a shutdown and remind you if a CD/DVD disc is present.
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 to 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, or just close 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 for Windows 10/11.
We’ve mentioned DShutdown before because it’s an excellent and portable tool to force system shutdowns and reboots under certain system conditions. Because it has loads of options to force shutdowns, just applying a couple of changes to the default settings can do the opposite and prevent shutdowns and reboots.
After opening DShutdown, uncheck all the options under “Shutdown type”, “Write to log file” can be enabled if you want to record when the block occurred. Then enable “Intercept shutdown” and a green light will flash next to Intercept Shutdown Requests. Minimize the window and DShutdown will block reboots and shutdowns. Use the Start minimized checkbox to start the program quietly next time.
ShutdownGuard is a simple little tool that will sit in your system tray and prevent Windows from shutting down, rebooting, or logging off. Instead of a shutdown, you’ll get the closing programs screen with the option to cancel the operation or force a shutdown/restart.
There are a few options available in the tray menu for ShutdownGuard. They include hiding the tray icon, disabling the program temporarily, and forcing a shutdown. Some extra configuration settings are held in an ini file that can be edited with Notepad. The small message below the ShutdownGuard app in the list can be configured and the program can be made to behave silently.
Portable and installer versions are available. You might as well disable the check for updates during install (if you use the setup installer version) as the program hasn’t been updated since 2010.
Bonus Option: This last option is not listed as a tool because it does not automatically prevent software or Windows from shutting down the computer. Instead, it hides manual options for the average user to turn off the computer from the Start Menu or the Lock Screen. This works for Windows 10 and 11.
Simply download this Zip file that contains a couple of Registry import files. Run the Disable version and import the data into the registry. This will remove shutdown, restart, sleep, or hibernate options from the Start Menu, Win+X Advanced Menu, and the Lock Screen. Use the Enable Reg file to turn the options back on again.
This won’t fool more advanced users as it just removes the buttons and not the ability to shut down, so Alt+F4 or the Shutdown.exe tool, for instance, will still work.