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Turning Off Windows 8: Why You Should Be Using Toolbars

January 24, 2013 Comments off

One of the sillier decisions Microsoft made in Windows 8 is moving the menu to turn off the computer to the Charms bar’s Settings menu. Since when does turning off the computer count as a setting? Besides, it’s more clicks or key presses than it needs to be, by a wide enough margin that it’s bound to get annoying for those who have to turn off or restart their computers frequently.

Fortunately, with a little up-front work, you can have a menu that comes pretty close to the power menu in Windows Vista/7’s Start menu. All you have to do is recognize the power of toolbars.

Going back at least to XP (I haven’t tried it in earlier versions), you can add just about any folder on your hard drive to the taskbar as a toolbar. You can even add My Computer as a toolbar. Heck, that’s all the Quick Launch menu really is: All those articles about adding it back to Windows 7/8 just tell you where to find the old Quick Launch folder and how to style the toolbar. There are benefits to using the actual Quick Launch folder (i.e. some programs’ installers add shortcuts to it automatically), but really, you can do the same with any folder.

What that means is that you can create any menu of files and programs you’d like, simply by creating a folder with a bunch of shortcuts in it.

So how do we use this knowledge to create an easily-to-access power menu? Simple: Windows includes a command line utility that allows you to shut down the computer, aptly called shutdown. By passing it various parameters, you can achieve different results. For instance, shutdown /p (or alternatively, shutdown /s t 0) just turns off the computer. I’ll be the first to admit that creating a shortcut to this command isn’t exactly an original idea (among others, see Super User on a shortcut to shutdown and How-To Geek on pinning power icons to the Start screen), but I figured the toolbar tip made my version worth throwing onto the pile.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a folder where you’ll put the shortcuts. (I just stick mine in a subfolder of my user folder.) You can call it whatever you want, but keep in mind that the name of the folder will be the name of the toolbar.
  2. Create a new shortcut in the folder. When prompted for the location of the item, enter the command shutdown /s /t 0 in the text box. Name the shortcut Turn Off or something similar. Again, shutdown /p does the same thing.
  3. Create any additional shortcuts you want by varying the parameters:
    • To create a restart shortcut, enter shutdown /r /t 0 in the box.
    • To create a hibernate shortcut, enter shutdown /h in the box. No /t 0 this time!
    • To create a logoff shortcut, enter shutdown /l t 0 in the box.
  4. Optionally, you can customize the shortcuts’ icons:
    1. Right-click on an icon, select Properties, and click Change Icon.
    2. Pick an icon from %SystemRoot%\System32\SHELL32.dll (which Change Icon should have open by default) or browse for another icon file, then click OK in both the Change Icon and Properties windows.
    3. Repeat this for each shortcut you want to change.
  5. Right-click on the taskbar, go to “toolbars,” and click “New toolbar.”
  6. Browse to the folder you created in step 1 and click the “Select Folder” button.

Here’s what the end result looks like:

PowerToolbar

For comparison, here’s the power menu under Windows 7’s Start menu:

Win7StartMenu_power

You can also pin these shortcuts to the Start screen if you want. That’s what I did on my PC at work, and here’s what it looks like:

PowerTiles

A few other odds and ends for your consideration:

  • The /t parameter, in case you wondered, specifies the time, in seconds, before the computer shuts down. If you use the /s, /h, or /r parameters without /t, the computer will wait a short while, so we use /t 0 to make it turn off immediately.
  • In Windows 8, you can add the /hybrid parameter to the Turn Off shortcut (making the full command shutdown /s /t 0 /hybrid) to use a new Windows 8 feature that speeds up startup by restoring the operating system from a hibernation-like state instead of loading it from scratch. You can read more about it in the Super User question Are there downsides to Windows 8 Hybrid Shutdown?, or the (somewhat outdated) MSDN blog post Delivering fast boot times in Windows 8.
  • There are also ways to add standby/sleep and lock shortcuts. Unfortunately, they use dll files (via rundll32.exe), which aren’t nearly as well-documented as the shutdown command. Additionally, as I understand it, these rundll32 tips aren’t always reliable; for instance, the How-To Geek’s instructions for a lock shortcut worked for me, but when I tried the sleep shortcut from their post that I linked at the top of this post, it hibernated instead.
  • If you just want one button, you could just create a single shortcut and pin it to the taskbar, but I advise against it. It’s too easy to click it accidentally, and there are no take-backs.
  • The old-fashioned Shut Down menu that’s been around since Windows 95 is still around, too. Just press Alt + F4 from the desktop (meaning the actual desktop, not a desktop app). Winaero’s instructions for creating a shortcut to this Shut Down menu look interesting, but I’ve never tried them myself, so I can’t recommend them.
  • The downside of toolbars is that lining them up properly can be a pain. There’s no actual solution but there are some workarounds to get toolbars to look right.
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