Sometimes when you’re using you computer, you might have to leave it alone to complete a task before shutting it down or putting it to sleep. A lot of software these days that performs time consuming tasks such as downloading or intensive tasks like encoding will include some form of option to shutdown or sleep the computer once it’s finished. Many tools don’t give you that option though and the computer has to be left on until you come back to it.
In Windows you can use the built in tool shutdown.exe from command prompt or a batch script to log off, shutdown, restart, abort system shutdown, set a timeout for shutdown to xx seconds etc, but many users are not comfortable using the command prompt. Another option is to use the Windows Task Scheduler to do it and although not that difficult to setup, it’s not exactly a fast and efficient way to go for the average user.
1. Vista Shutdown Timer
Despite the name, Vista Shutdown Timer works fine on all Windows versions from 2000 upwards and is an easy to use, compact and portable sleep timer. There is only a countdown timer and selected date and time method of triggering a shutdown type, but there are some other useful functions included which might make up for it. These include using Vista Shutdown Timer with a PC-IR Remote control, an OSD (On Screen Display), a monitor into standby option and as long as your BIOS supports it, wake the computer from hibernate or standby at a specified time.
Simply click the needed log off, hibernate, standby, restart or shutdown icon and choose the timer or set time and date. Vista Shutdown Timer also supports several command line arguments making it useful for batch files and scripts, commands can be shown by right clicking the tray icon -> Info. For less experienced users or quick access, a handy shortcut wizard in the tray menu helps you create a desktop shortcut with commands automatically entered into it so you can simply double click the icon to start a pre-configured timer.
2. Wise Auto Shutdown
Wise are perhaps better known for their disk/registry cleaners and data recovery tool, but Auto Shutdown is another program that’s easy and straightforward to use.
It offers to shut down, restart, log off, hibernate, power off and sleep the computer. Any of these tasks can be configured for a specific date and time, in hours and minutes from when you press the Start Task button or at a set time on a daily basis. You can also tell it to remind you 5 minutes before a task is due to be run which will popup an OK/cancel box in the middle of the screen. A couple of menu options in the tray icon can immediately restart or shutdown the computer. A portable version is also available from the main downloads page. Works from XP to Windows 8.
There is another free program that’s almost identical to Wise Auto Shutdown called Winmend Auto Shutdown. It has a slightly different interface with a choice of colors, but the functions and operations are laid out and operate the same, including the tray menu. This program doesn’t has a portable version though.
3. Airytec Switch Off
Although Switch Off is primarily used and designed for timed shutdowns etc, it’s also capable of more advanced functions such as applying an action after a period of CPU inactivity and also user inactivity (not touching the mouse/keyboard). You can also ask it to perform an action on user login or computer startup, the other schedules are daily, weekly, once or countdown. When the schedule is triggered, Switch Off runs an action which can either be shutdown, restart, log off, lock, close any dial-up or VPN connections or run a batch script of your choice.
There is also a useful remote web interface option where the computer can be shutdown, restarted etc from a web browser on another computer or mobile device. For quick access, from the right click tray menu every action (restart, run script etc) can be easily setup to execute after a set period of time on a countdown timer or after the computer has been idle. Switch Off has 32-bit/64-bit portable versions or an installer and works on Windows 2000 and above.
4. TimeComX Basic
Although the free Basic version of TimeComX is missing the parallel tasks, working while logged out and remote control functions, it’s still very well equipped to handle standard and more advanced tasks alike. In its simpler form, you can just setup a standard countdown timer, daily timed or weekly event to perform a task of either restart, shutdown, log off, hibernate, sleep, lock or turn off the computer display, with the option to create a screenshot before the task is executed.
For more advanced usage, there is an Activity event Monitor where you can setup monitoring of CPU, memory, disk, network, keyboard/mouse and a running or not running process. When the threshold is triggered for the given period (eg; CPU usage <10% for 5 minutes), the task will be executed. There are also other tasks besides the shutdown ones mentioned above including ending a running process, playing an audio file and executing a file/opening a webpage. You can also setup multiple profiles and password protect the program from other users. 32-bit and 64-bit versions are available for Windows XP and above, it can be made portable by extracting the installer with 7-Zip.
5. AMP WinOFF
The WinOFF interface has a lot of its options on view at once which makes it look a lot more complicated to use than it actually is. You can create more advanced profiles which can have multi-conditional behavior meaning at least one or all conditions must be met for the computer to perform the shutdown type. This can be restart, log off, shutdown, lock, sleep, hibernate and an admin restart or shutdown.
Any or all of the conditions can be chosen to trigger the shutdown action from date and time, countdown timer, lack of of user activity, low CPU load or when the upload/download/combined network transfer speed for a chosen adapter has dropped for a period of time. You can also execute a program or take a screen shot before shutdown and lock the session from other users. Advanced administrative options can shutdown a remote computer and also enable anti tamper protection which can auto restart the program or shutdown the system if the process is terminated. Works on windows 2000 and above, a portable version is available.
Note: There are many of these tools around that can perform shutdowns with various options. Final Countdown is a handy tool if you only want a countdown timer but with lots of options. Shutdown8 is a tool that works when pinned to your taskbar, especially useful for Windows 8 users fed up with having to use the charms bar, and PCSleep is plain and very simple to operate.