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Why IT support always asks you to reboot your computer

Ever wondered why every IT support person everywhere always seems to ask you to reboot your computer? Ever wondered why every IT blog, computer tech or helpful neighbor always suggests rebooting your computer to fix an issue? It isn’t because they don’t know what else to do, there are several reasons why it can actually fix what’s wrong.

Here at New Jersey Computer Help, whenever we visit a client to help with a computer problem, we will often reboot first. Well second, once we save any data on the computer to prevent it being lost. It isn’t because it has always been that way or because it buys us a little time. Neither is it in the hope that the problem will fix itself. Not completely anyway.

It isn’t just Windows either. We suggest rebooting a Mac, your tablets, laptops, phones, smart TVs and anything that uses software.

Rebooting your device

There are a few reasons why a reboot can fix so much and they revolve around memory, software, drivers and operating system.

Every time you use a program, play a game, browse the internet or something else, you use system resources. The operating system of most devices is now pretty good at releasing those resources once you’re finished, but often small footprints are left behind. A file is left in memory, a process remains active in the processor queue, a file is locked open and not released. All these things can contribute to computer problems and a reboot fixes all of them.

A reboot can:

Flush your RAM

Everything you ask your device to do runs through your RAM. A processor cannot access files from your hard drive or anywhere else. First your operating system loads the required file into memory (RAM) and then it is passed to the process to complete its task. Sometimes fragments are left in RAM or requests left intact rather than being dropped.

RAM is volatile, meaning it requires power to work. Remove the power and RAM drops all data it holds. This is a significant reason why a reboot can fix your computer.

Memory leaks are also a factor. Software with errors or that has been poorly written can cause memory leaks. This occurs when the program doesn’t release memory or resets tasks properly and rather than returning the RAM to the pool, keeps hold of it. The more you use the software, the more RAM it holds onto. Eventually it will use so much that there won’t be enough for other programs. A reboot fixes these too as it forces RAM to drop everything.

Reload core files

Whenever you boot a device, a set of core files is loaded into memory. These files tell the computer what to do and when to do it. All operating systems do this in order to function. As the OS is used, portions of RAM where these core files are loaded can accidentally be dropped or overwritten with other files. This can cause instability and crashes.

This is simply an error in memory management and is partially down to the speed at which modern memory works and the inability for software to keep up. It can also be down to errors within the OS or program being used.

A reboot will drop all these core files and cause the operating system to load them all over again. This flushes the broken files and replaces them with fresh new copies.

Reload device drivers

A reboot will also reload any drivers your devices use to function. This is mainly for computers but phones and tablets also use drivers. A driver is a piece of software usually written by the device manufacturer that tells an operating system how to use that device. An operating system doesn’t know how to use a particular piece of hardware unless it knows what it is, what it is capable of and the instructions necessary to make it work. A driver does all those things.

In the same way OS core files can be accidentally moved, deleted or overwritten, the same can happen to drivers. Other programs can also interfere with how drivers work and bugs or errors within the driver itself can cause system instabilities.

A reboot causes the operating system to drop any driver files in memory and reload fresh ones in the same way it does core files. Any other piece of software that is interfering with driver operation will also be dropped.

Reset your processor task queue

All devices have some kind of processor that does much of the heavy lifting. As CPUs work so quickly in newer devices, a queue system is used to keep the processor busy while the rest of the device prepares the files it needs to work. The queue is a complicated piece of software that uses priorities, interrupts and sequencing to ensure tasks are completed quickly and in the order requested.

If a process takes too long, finding a required file for example, the queue stops. Once the task is complete, the queue starts again and continues. If there is a long delay or an instruction is not completed properly, it can hang and lock. This will often result in a system crash or freezing.

A reboot will reset the processor task queue, drop all tasks and restart afresh. Any stuck task is forgotten and your device can continue as normal.

Those are all reasons why your IT support team ask you to reboot your computer. There is method to the madness and we aren’t just asking to make you do something. There are real reasons why a reboot might be necessary and those above are just four of many.

If your device continually locks, crashes or needs a reboot, it is a sign of something more serious. If that happens, you should contact New Jersey Computer Help. We can visit your business and address the problem. All for a sensible price. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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