Why Does Restarting Fix Computer Problems?

When you have computer problems, experts often tell you to restart your computer. And often that fixes the problem. Why does this work? Is it really the best technique for dealing with computer issues? If you need to restart often, does that mean you should have an expert take a look at your computer?

Video Transcript
Say you're having trouble with your computer. What's the one piece of advice you can expect almost any expert to tell you right off the bat. It maybe to go over here and to restart your computer. Or as one TV show always said, Have you tried turning it off and then on again. So why does restarting your computer solve so many computer problems?

Well, the reason it does is because you don't really need to restart your computer. All you really need to do, in a lot of cases, is restart the app or process that is causing a problem. But figuring out what app or process that is can take a long time. Much longer than just simply restarting your computer which will restart all the apps and all the processes and everything going on, solving the problem which may have just been one little thing. So it's a bit of an overkill but it is quicker to do that than it is to actually figure out the problem.

So to give an example here in the Dock you can see I've got Safari running, I've got Mail running, I've got Photos running. I've got all sorts of things going on. So maybe I'm having an issue and it's one of these apps causing the problem. I could try quitting each one and see if it solves the issue but a restart is just faster especially if you've got like ten or twenty apps going on.

In addition, if you look in Activity Monitor you'll see that you've got way more than that going on. There's a lot of background apps that are running. Tons of them. So it could be that one of those is causing you an issue especially if you've got lots of third party apps because you may have all the basic stuff that all comes from Apple but then if you've got say ten or twenty third party apps then you've now got ten or twenty different pieces of software from different companies, different development environments, all running on your Mac. One of them could be causing a problem and it could be the thing that's stopping everything from working on your Mac.

But by restarting you're clearing all of that out forcing all of those apps and processes to restart which may fix the one that's having an issue. If you feel that you're not doing much on your Mac you really are. That list of things in Activity Monitor is showing you that there's lots of network activity because you're contacting the internet. You're loading things on web pages. A single web page can contain fifty or hundred different items that need to be loaded separately. You have to maintain a WiFi connection. There's system updates. There's software updates. There's all sorts of things going on in the background monitoring your computer and what's going on. Any one of those could have an issue. The more third party software you've got installed the more of these that you're going to have running in the background even if you're not using these apps and even if they're not running at the current time.

The only time I would worry about restarts is when you've done it too much. When is too much? Well, I'd say if you're restarting more than once a week then it's probably too much. Now you may know whey you're restarting. You may have a piece beta software or development software or something that you know is causing the issue. Then that's fine. Then restart as often as you need, as often as you are willing to put up with to use that software.

But if you don't think that you're using anything to be causing issues and you're still having to restart to clear out problems then you may want to have someone take a look at your Mac. Maybe take it to the Genius Bar so they can investigate and figure out what is causing the issue that makes you have to restart all the time and maybe you can fix it or maybe just simply uninstall the piece of software that is getting in the way.

Comments: 8 Responses to “Why Does Restarting Fix Computer Problems?”

    Carlos Rivera
    5/4/17 @ 10:15 am

    I assume if you are having a problem then it would also make a sense to uncheck the box “Reopen windows when logging back in” from the Log Out window. This option sets whether your apps should re-open the next time you log in.

    5/4/17 @ 10:34 am

    Carlos: That option would be useful if you want to pick up right where you left off after a restart. Better than re-launching the apps and re-opening the documents manually.

    Ron Seddon
    5/5/17 @ 2:34 am

    I find all of the vids I’ve watched informative and extremely helpful, long may you continue with these!
    agree that finding the offending app can take an age to do, but for some time now, start up takes a very very long time. Given this I often find it quicker to find the app that is causing the problem.
    It may be worthwhile doing a vid as to how we can speed the start up process up?

    Bradley Dichter
    5/5/17 @ 5:56 am

    You could mention that a primary reason why restarting fixes computer problems is because they have run out of memory and this clears it. A memory leak, often caused in a web browser running Adobe Flash player, will use up more memory over time which is not cleared even when the browser is quit. Many people’s computer’s don’t have enough memory for all the programs they run simultaneously. They sleep the computer rather than power off and back on, so the problem is never resolved.

    Ron Seddon
    5/7/17 @ 5:53 am

    I use the memory clean app to rid any unwanted use.

    Ronnie
    5/10/17 @ 10:54 am

    First, thank your for your work with MacMost. You state that once a week is sufficient to restart the unit. How about running disk utilities immediately after restarting? Is that recommended?

    5/10/17 @ 11:09 am

    First, you only need to restart if there is a problem. If there is not a problem, don’t restart. I’m suggesting that if you are restarting more then once a week (and you are not a developer or beta tester) then you should probably figure out what the problem is. If you suspect a problem (regardless of restarting), you know how to use Disk Utility and feel that you should, then by all means go ahead and try it. But problems there (or no problems found) could be completely unrelated.

    Glenn
    5/19/17 @ 5:23 am

    The only reason why I would restart my computer is to load between OS X 10.8.5 and MacOS 10.12.2.

Comments Closed.