Would you like to restart your computer now, or later?
April 19, 2006 11:26 AM   Subscribe

I never restart the computer when I install things on Windows XP. I go weeks without rebooting, installing multiple programs. I've never had a problem. Two questions: 1) Why do so many programs require this? and 2) What's the potential for harm from ignoring their suggestion?
posted by pornucopia to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There is a program called WhyReboot which will tell you what file operations are waiting pending a reboot. Site seems to be down at the moment unfortunately.
posted by teleskiving at 11:30 AM on April 19, 2006

teleskiving, that site's up for me. I'm gonna check it out, too! Good question pornucopia!</small?
posted by inigo2 at 11:45 AM on April 19, 2006

Best answer: If the install tries to replace a library which is currently in memory and being used, the replacement gets stacked up and has to wait until the next reboot. Usually those can be seen in the registry at this key:


If that doesn't happen, then the consequences for you is inconsistent software, where one program or library wants something that another program or library can't give it, resulting in weird behavior or outright program crashes.

That said, a lot of installation programs tell you to reboot when you don't actually have to, mostly because it's easy for them (they just tick a box when the build the installer script) and it never does any harm, except for costing a bit of time for the user. And sometimes it does help.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:48 AM on April 19, 2006

Best answer: Developers that build Windows install packages use toolkits that have a simple checkbox such as "require restart" and unfortunately many developers being either lazy, sloppy, inconsiderate, superstitious, incompetent, or all of the above, they leave that feature checked although their app doesn't need it. Another common rudeness of install kits is telling the user to close all other apps before installing this one, again for no good reason.

You're not doing any harm by not restarting.
posted by StarForce5 at 12:03 PM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: Another common rudeness of install kits is telling the user to close all other apps before installing this one, again for no good reason.

Heh, good to know. I always ignored that one too, although I've avoided installing new programs if I was running something that was doing a lot of disk access.
posted by pornucopia at 12:06 PM on April 19, 2006

One useful (and free) program to tell if you really need to reboot is called WhyReboot?. Gives a nice summary screen telling if the install prog tried to modify locked files, what's been requested to happen on next reboot, etc.

My experience agrees with StarForce5, though, in that only about 5% of programs 'requiring' reboot actually do.
posted by gage at 12:49 PM on April 19, 2006

i guess - i don't know exactly how windows works - that closing programs might help avoid problems and/or the need to reboot. if a library that is being replaced was being used by a program then i assume it would not be replaced, causing problems. closing programs releases the library (i continue to assume), avoiding the problems.

so if you are not going to reboot, closing unimportant programs is perhaps a good idea.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:58 PM on April 19, 2006

Some programs are designed to run certain services at start-up (anti-virus programs come to mine as a legitimate example, but Adobe and Apple have Acrobat and Quicktime set-up to run on start-up too). If you don't restart you may not be utilizing all of the program's functionality.
posted by oddman at 2:39 PM on April 19, 2006

I've written some installers for my last employer. 1) Writing installers sucks. 2) The install experience sucks even if the guy writing the installer is not lazy but spends a ton of time trying to make it reasonable on all the million different configurations it can be run on.

One example of a situation where I was unable to make it not require a reboot no matter how hard I tried was if the user had a copy of the Installshield Update Service (ugh) running in the background and it wanted to upgrade to newer version of the Update Service. This will be invisible to the user, but it makes the installer ask that you reboot. If you don't, you will still be using the old version, which works fine nearly all of the time, but there's no way I could say "only install the new version if they don't have ANY version".

If the install fails because something's running and it can't write a file, it will at least tell you - don't listen to them when they tell you to close everything.
posted by aubilenon at 2:45 PM on April 19, 2006

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