Laptop won’t shutdown and won’t restart

THE PROBLEM

Occasionally your laptop might not completely shutdown, and won’t restart.  Symptoms can include: a black screen or the screen is frozen in shutdown state, no lights other than the power light are on, plugging in or unplugging the charger has no effect on the power light, and the fan might run constantly.

HARD RESET OR SOFT RESET

Reset buttons that were once common on desktop computers don’t exist on laptops. Desktop reset buttons were designed to send a reset signal directly to the CPU, without interrupting power.  The effect on the system was immediate and severe, and is referred to as a “Hard Reset.”

Laptops can do something similar to the desktop reset buttons by holding the power button in for 10 seconds or more and then releasing it.  This is usually referred to as a “Soft Reset,” although it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a “Hard Reset.”  The term “Soft Reset” refers to the fact that this function does not directly reset the CPU. Its function relies on code running in your laptop, at both the BIOS and OS level, to do an orderly shutdown to the system with little risk of data loss or corruption.

Sometimes, however, even the power button soft reset won’t force a laptop to shutdown and restart.  If your laptop is in a really confused state, the code that detects the power button being held down may not be able to function properly. This will prevent a power button soft reset from working.


BATTERY RESET

In the quest to make ever thinner laptops, batteries are sealed inside the laptop case and are not easy to remove and replace.  If you have an older laptop with a removable battery, you can unplug everything from your laptop and remove the battery for at least 10 seconds to force it to completely shutdown.  This is a more severe solution than a hard reset button on a desktop because you are suddenly cutting power to everything inside the laptop, which could cause data corruption.  So this method should only be used when all other methods have failed.

But what do you do if you have a sealed battery? You could just leave the laptop unplugged and wait for the battery to completely drain, but since the laptop is probably already in a low power usage mode that could take a very long time.

BATTERY RESET BUTTON

Laptop manufacturers provide a button that allows you to disconnect battery power from the system without having to open the case and remove the battery. This button is usually called a “Battery Reset Button” but may also have other names like “Recovery Button” or “Hard Reset Button” or just “Reset.” These buttons are located inside a small pinhole on the bottom of the laptop, or sometimes on the side near the battery charger socket.

You should not start pushing paperclips randomly into every hole on the back of your laptop. Spend some time searching online to find where the battery reset button is located for your specific laptop model.

BATTERY RESET PROCEDURE

The battery reset button procedure should be the same for all laptops, but first search online to confirm that the following procedure is correct for your laptop.

  • First confirm that you can not restart your laptop through the operating system, or by holding in the power button for 10 seconds, and that your laptop has a sealed battery that can not be removed without opening the laptop case.
  • Unplug your battery charger from the laptop. Also unplug any other devices that are connected to your laptop, such as printers, USB hubs, memory sticks, external sound cards, earbuds, etc.
  • Make a reset button tool by bending open the end of a paperclip, or find a blunt ended object that is small enough to fit in the pinhole of the battery reset button. Do not use sharp objects like straight pins or safety pins.
  • Use your reset button tool to press and hold down the battery reset button for at least 10 seconds. Then release the button and remove the tool from the pinhole.
  • At this point, the laptop should be completely shutdown. No lights should be on and nothing on the screen should be visible. Wait a few seconds more before plugging your laptop back in to its battery charger.
  • Now try to turn the power on as you normally would. If all your laptop needed was a battery reset, then the laptop should start up normally.
  • If the laptop does not start up, it is a sign of more serious trouble; possibly a damaged motherboard. In this case, you will have to decide if the laptop is worth repairing, or if it is better to replace the laptop.