What happened to the Shut Down menu in classic Task Manager?

The great thing about open comments is that anybody can use them to introduce their favorite gripe as long as it shares at least four letters of the alphabet in common with the putative topic of the base article.

xpclient "asks" why the Shut Down menu was removed from Task Manager. I put the word "asks" in quotation marks, because it's really a complaint disguised as a question. As in "Why do you guys suck?"

The first thing to understand is that classic Task Manager went into a state of sustained engineering since Windows 2000. In other words, the component is there, but there is no serious interest in improving it. (That's why it wasn't updated to call Enable­Theme­Dialog­Texture on its pages.) It's not like there's a Task Manager Team of five people permanently dedicated to making Task Manager as awesome as possible for every release of Windows. Rather, the responsibility for maintaining Task Manager is sort of tacked onto somebody whose primary responsibilities are for other parts of the system.

There are a lot of Windows components in this state of "internal sustained engineering." The infamous "Install font" dialog, for example. The responsibility for maintaining these legacy components is spread out among the product team so that on average, teams are responsible both for cool, exciting things and some not-so-cool, legacy things.

(On the other hand, according to xpclient, an app must be serving its users really well if it hasn't changed much, so I guess that Install font dialog is the best dialog box in all of Windows at serving its users, seeing as it hasn't changed since 1995.)

The engineering budget for these components in internal sustained engineering is kept to a minimum, both because there is no intention of adding new features, and also because the components are so old that there is unlikely to be any significant work necessary in the future.

Every so often, some work becomes necessary, and given that the engineering interest and budget are both very low, the simplest way out when faced with a complicated problem in a rarely-used feature is simply to remove the rarely-used feature.

And that's what happened to the Shut Down menu. (Note that it's two words "Shut down" since it is being used as a verb, not a noun.) Given the changes to power management in Windows Vista, the algorithm used by Task Manager was no longer accurate. And instead of keeping Task Manager updated with every change, the Shutdown user interface design team agreed to give the Task Manager engineering team a break and say, "Y'know, the Shut Down menu on Task Manager is rarely-used, so we'll let you guys off the hook on this one, so you don't keep getting weekly requests from us to change the way Shut Down works."

I remember, back in the days of Windows XP, seeing the giant spreadsheet used by the person responsible for overall design of the Shutdown user interface. It tracked the gazillion group policies, user settings, and system configurations which all affect how shutting down is presented to the user. Removing the column for Task Manager from the spreadsheet probably was met with a huge sigh of relief, not just from the Task Manager engineering team, but also from the person responsible for the spreadsheet.

Remember, engineering is about trade-offs. If you decide to spend more effort making Task Manager awesome, you lose the ability to expend that effort on something else. (And given that you are expending effort in a code base that is relatively old and not fresh in the minds of the people who would be making those changes, you also increase the likelihood that you're going to introduce a bug along the way.)

Comments (61)
  1. Joshua says:

    Sigh. It's not used much because task manager is an escape hatch (or was before W8) due to minimal dependencies. Oh well it's less necessary than it once was as somewhere after XP and before 7 they fixed the bug where NTFS could get destroyed by an untimely power off.

    At least run is still there so taskmgr -> Run -> Shutdown -s works if you know to do it.

  2. Mike says:

    The lesson to be learned here is:  Never add a (user-accessible) feature to your product unless you, being of sound mind and body, are very willing to maintain it for all eternity.

    Not adding a feature is cheap.  It's expensive as hell to remove them.

  3. 12BitSlab says:

    I never used "Shut Down" from task manager.  It didn't bother me a whit when it was no longer there.

    Given task manager's legacy status, what prompted the big update to it for Win8?  As far as I am concerned, it is the best part of Win8.  Kudos to the team who did the work!

  4. Anon says:

    There's an algorithm? Why? The "Shut Down" button in Task Manager should simply shutdown -s -t 0. If you want another power mode, why the hell would you be trying to get there from Task Manager?

  5. dave says:

    >Note that it's two words "Shut down"

    and I thought I was the only one who cared about that distinction.

  6. Ways to shut down:

    > Alt+F4 with desktop selected

    > Win+I -> Power -> Shutdown

    > Win+R -> shutdown /s

    > Physical PC button (my favourite)

    > Win -> Power -> Shutdown

    > Right-click bottom-left corner of screen -> Shutdown

    Any others?

    I note that you can use another component of Windows (vis. Procexp) to replace task-manager if you want your shut-down button back and a deluge of other interesting features.

  7. morlamweb says:

    I never noticed that Shut Down option is missing in Task Manager; probably because I never use it ; )

    @12BitSlab: the Building Windows 8 blog has a great post on the design of the new Task Manager in Win8: blogs.msdn.com/…/the-windows-8-task-manager.aspx

    It also has a nice retrospective on Task Managers of the past.  So, while TM may have been on "sustained engineering" for some time, it's not true that no changes were made to it.  From Raymond's post, I surmised that Task Manager changes were made whenever bugs were found and the dev responsible for it could fit it into their schedule to implement the fixes/enhancements.  Then, of course, there were the major changes in Win8, which I'm guessing were done in a more methodical manner, and with people dedicated to it, not just tacked on to people with other responsibilities.

  8. smf says:

    > Physical PC button (my favourite)

    Isn't the default for that to sleep or hibernate? The first thing I ever do on a laptop is tell it to do nothing when the lid is closed, hibernate if sleep is pressed and shutdown if power button is pressed.

  9. Pedro says:

    Wait… does anyone shuts down the computer? I can't think of the last time I did that.

    Power Button > Sleep all the time for me.

  10. Francis says:

    I never used the Shut down option in Task Manager until I started using Remote Desktop – then I started using it all the time. Personally I don't think "you guys suck, you removed the Shut down option from Task Manager" because it's perfectly reasonable for the shutdown UI to be somewhere other than Task Manager. I do think "you guys suck, you hid the main shutdown UI when logged on via Remote Desktop" though ;-)

  11. amroamroamro says:

    @carbon twelve:

    – Win+X menu in Windows 8

    – unplug the computer :)

  12. Yuri says:


    I believe the TaskManager redesign has a lot to do with the Low Power Computing focus in Windows 8 to target tablets.

  13. Gabe says:

    Francis: You hit the nail on the head — I hate how hard it is to restart a client PC over RDP. Of course I've suffered more than once at the hand of somebody who shut down a server, intending to only shut down their local computer, so I can see the argument from both sides.

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time I need to restart a PC it is not mine, so it seems like for every computer I have to learn a new way to do it. I never know what the power button is going to do, or what series of keystrokes is needed to restart from the login screen.

  14. amroamroamro says:

    @Francis: I use Ctrl-Alt-End in RDP. One could even use the on-screen keyboard (osk.exe) to virtually send ctrl-alt-del

  15. HappyWithChange says:


    "There's an algorithm? Why? The "Shut Down" button in Task Manager should simply shutdown -s -t 0. If you want another power mode, why the hell would you be trying to get there from Task Manager?"

    Raymond even mentions it in the article, but the short answer is that not everyone has permissions to shut down the machine.  Not like it is very common, but think of situations like college computer labs or shared user machines in a secure facility.  In both cases you want to be able to prevent the user from ever turning off the machine.

  16. alegr1 says:


    Why not use shutdown policies?

  17. Nico says:

    Didn't Task Manager used to have a menu with multiple power-off options, like Log Off, Restart, etc?  I think this was reduced to just Shut Down in XP, but can't recall when/if there were more options.  I agree with others that the primary benefit of these power options were when you ended up without Explorer.  Task Manager is always only CTRL+SHIFT+ESC away, and they were handy sometimes.


    > but the short answer is that not everyone has permissions to shut down the machine

    But that's not something a user application should be worrying about.  It should just call ExitWindowsEx and let the API figure out the rest.  If the call fails it can FormatMessage.

    [There a lot of UI-only group policies. They control, for example, whether "Shut down" should be hidden from the Start menu even if the user has permission to shut down the machine. ExitWindowsEx doesn't check those policies because it doesn't know whose idea it was to call ExitWindowsEx. -Raymond]
  18. Gabe says:

    alegr1: I think shutdown policies are part of the problem — every client configures them differently. But it doesn't help that every version of Windows is different, every network access system (VNC, RDP) is different, every OEM has different defaults, and so on.

  19. morlamweb says:

    @Yuri: Please see the link to the Building Windows 8 blog that I put into my earlier comment.  The redesign of Task Manager in Windows 8 involved a lot more than just an emphasis on low-power computing and tablets (though, the minimal taskman interface in Win8 is rather touch-friendly).

  20. Mark says:

    Francis: Win (or Ctrl+Esc), Esc, Alt+F4.

  21. Zan Lynx' says:

    Most shutdown policies are rather silly. If I have physical access to the power cord or a button I have the ability to shut down the computer. The system may as well provide an apporoved means of doing that.

  22. Yuri says:


    One thing I heard was a desire to show visually which app took the more processing power.

  23. mfah says:

    I was never even aware that there was a Shut Down menu.  Consider it a case of not even paying attention to something you never use.

    To be honest, if xpclient really needs a way of shutting down after shell crashes that badly, I think he's got bigger problems than a missing menu item, and he'd probably be better off spending energy on fixing those bigger problems than on complaining about the latest thing he doesn't like.

    Another thing: physical access isn't always possible; the machine you've an RDP connection to might be a VM.

  24. Robert Birdfree says:

    I figure this is a good a place as any for my stupid question: Why can I install Windows on any computer without a graphics driver and I can still see the screen (I actually know this), but I can't use the network? Why isn't there a generic network driver/standard? That's how you would even bootstrap a system to full functionality as it allows you to get the drivers for everything else. It blows me away every time I need to use a USB stick to transfer a network driver. The main thing that keeps me from recommending people change OS or reinstall their OS is because I don't want to explain how to get a network driver on it.

    It's 2014 and drivers are still an anti-user disaster. I guess it's a good thing for Microsoft and its OEMs that we're moving to basically embedded machines that we can't fix or reload even if we wanted to.

    And this is coming from someone whose job it is to run a WDS server and maintain Windows images for thousands of computers.

    I guess this was more of a rant than anything. But it felt good.

  25. Muzer_ says:

    @mfah It wouldn't surprise me if xpclient is killing the shell because it keeps automatically sorting his files by name ;)

  26. Anonymous Coward says:

    If it's so hard, then why does Process Hacker have a shut down menu, though by a different name? To be honest, at this point Task Manager is lagging so far behind it would make more sense for Microsoft to kill Task Manager and tell OEMs to pre-install Process Hacker if they want their computers to have a task manager.

  27. cheong00 says:

    @carbon twelve: The point is sometimes the explorer itself is not responsive and the only thing that's still responive to yuor command is task manager.

    Btw, that's one of the reason why I always replace the "task manager" with "Process Explorer" once I got my hand to machine that I'll be using. (With another reason that "Shut Down" menuitem is not available when you're using Remote Desktop to connect to WinXP)

  28. Yuhong Bao says:

    I think this menu was added because when the option to use the Welcome screen was selected, Ctrl+Alt+Del just opened the Task Manager instead of the normal dialog. This was fixed in Vista with a new screen to replace the dialog and the menu was no longer necessary.

  29. xpclient says:

    Welcome to excuse number 65135. It's an example of how Microsoft has lost focus lately in understanding good user experience. (Vista or Windows 8/8.1 anyone?) One thing can be surely said – if the product is causing so much controversy, clearly they are falling short of customer expectations than before, and the tradeoffs they are doing are not right.

  30. Yuhong Bao says:

    @xpclient: How many people actually complain about this though?

  31. xpclient says:

    This is just ONE example. Many tradeoffs like these collectively make an inferior user experience which is why a product doesn't do as well as its predecessor.

  32. Yuhong Bao says:

    @xpclient: But usually the problems that matter are more serious than this. For example, the new start screen and hot corners in Win8.

  33. SRY says:

    xpclient is right, but the changes in Windows 7/Vista task manager were not as bad as the Windows 8 Task Manager: social.technet.microsoft.com/…/the-new-task-manager-is-stressing-me-like-crazy

  34. voo says:

    @Anonymous Coward: Yeah and the CLI has all this stuff built-in too *and* can be much easier scripted, clearly there's no point in either the task manager nor process hacker.

    99.9% of all users don't need all the stuff process hacker offers and just confuses them. Same with the shutdown options for task manager – pretty much nobody ever used them anyhow in the large scheme of things. If you want your great gigantic tool that can do all these things – well the great thing is you can, but for a user-facing tool that ships by default with the OS that's not the main goal..

  35. ender says:

    I'm almost certain that the only reason XP had Shut Down in Task Manager is because when the new Welcome screen was enabled, Ctrl+Alt+Del opened Task Manager instead of the Windows Security screen. If you disabled the new Welcome screen (or joined a domain, which disabled it automatically), the Shut Down menu was removed from Task Manager, since you could shut down from the Windows Security dialog (Windows 2000 did not have a Shut Down menu in Task Manager).

  36. @SRY: I think that post was meant as a dead-pan parody of much of the "someone moved my cheese" Windows 8 criticism. The give-away is the laugh-inducing complaint that "No default beep/Ding sound on the Processes tab if I press a key and there is no process or app beginning with that name.".

    That's not to say there aren't valid complaints about Windows 8; but that post is excellent satire dealing with the majority of it.

  37. Azarien says:

    There's no easy way to shut down/hibernate/suspend a computer from remote desktop session.

    I don't understand why are you making it so hard.

  38. cheong00 says:

    @Azarien: Yup. That's something that I can't understand too.

    I can see shutdown menus when remoting to a server and for some reason the option is removed when you remoting on client SKUs. I can't understand why it's made this way.

    And btw, most of the time when I need to remote to client SKUs, when the job is done I simple close the remote desktop window, or start elevated command prompt to shutdown it. The need for logout is nearly zero. On the other hand, I DO prefer to logout servers each time when I got my job done there. And I DO want the server to need a few more keypress to shutdown so you won't accidentially hit the wrong button. (To be fair, there is a warning dialog displayed when you press any of these buttons)

    It seems to me to design decision on Logout/Shutdown button handling is mixed up for this start menu item for me.

  39. VinDuv says:

    @Azarien: Because it’s not possible to remotely reactivate the computer ?

  40. 640k says:

    @mfah: Another thing: physical access isn't always possible; the machine you've an RDP connection to might be a VM.

    No one are happier than me to prove stupid authorization messages wrong by pulling the plug. Maybe there should be a "prove that you have physical access by yanking the cord", and after that windows could give you the access you rightfully deserve programmatically. Of course this will never happen, you will have to triumph stupid software with hardware forever.

    The change to rename Process to Task is several places, is a stupid one that alienate users. The Task concept is stupid and confusing and should be removed altogether, the app should probably be renamed Process manager. WTF is a task anyway? It's used as a future in .NET. Nope. Not that kind. Is it a process? Who knows. It's some kind of process-like stuff, confusing for everyone and hard to explain.

    @morlamweb: your building w8 link concludes: "Don’t remove functionality."

    As we seen, that was a lie.

    Also, using bing as the default search engine when searching for exe file names is disingenuous when most people prefer a better search engine.

    If you want to lessen the maintenance burden further, why not replace taskmgr with procexp? Problem solved.

    But instead of making things better, next version of taskmgr will probably have the Ribbon interface.

  41. Neil says:

    You can also shut down a remote 2000/XP/2003 box using Start – Windows Security.

    @640k: Not sure what you mean about renaming processes to tasks; Windows has had a task manager for decades, although only the NT versions showed processes as well.

  42. icabod says:

    @640k: Regarding the Task/Process thing, you need to remember that these days, there are probably more people using computers who don't know how they work, than those who do.

    A dictionary definition of "Process" is something like "A series of actions taken to achieve a particular end."

    Conversely, a "Task" is "A piece of work to be done or undertaken."

    Task is something to do, Process is how to do it.  To a non-computer-literate person, listing Tasks would make more sense.

    My task for today is troll-baiting.

    Incidentally, I love the new Task Manager in Windows 8.  The direct link to Resource Monitor is wonderfully handy.

  43. Lee says:

    I for one miss the Shutdown menu when I have to recover a hanging system and Explorer isn't responding. This blog post twists logic to purposely misinterpret a lot of things. Seems to be a common trait in all of Raymond Chen's posts.

  44. choice says:

    > using bing as the default search engine when searching for exe file names

    The best solution would probably be if EU enforced a searchenginechoice.eu website the first time a search was made.

  45. Karellen says:

    "clearly they are falling short of customer expectations than before, and the tradeoffs they are doing are not right."

    Uh, isn't the concept of "tradeoffs" specifically about consciously choosing to fall short in one area, in order to improve in others? Surely, falling short of customer expectations in a specific area is not evidence of making the wrong tradeoffs, it's evidence of *having made tradeoffs*, no?

  46. Hans says:

    And completely unrelated, a feature what was introduced in Win7 task manager is the flickering of the CPU usage bar (with aero disabled). Possibly this got some points for a reason.

  47. Joshua says:

    @Lee: It is very rare not very common that Raymond meaningfully misrepresents something.

  48. alegr1 says:

    @Robert Birdfree:

    There is a standard S/VGA specification. There is a standard USB host and storage specification. There is no standard NIC. No standard WiFi, either.

  49. Nick says:

    @640k: A task is an item that shows up in the taskbar. A process is some arcane name that a regular user knows nothing about. About the only word you could use that people would understand is "program." But that isn't a true synonym for either task or process.

  50. voo says:

    @Lee: So instead of restarting explorer to fix the problem to begin with you just want to restart the whole PC? Well ok, I guess people like to be unnecessarily roundabout, in which case: How about using the CLI?

  51. NoP says:

    So you're telling us that every UI element in Windows decides whether to allow the system to shut down, instead of reliying on the shutdown API? So anyone with a 4k app calling ExitWindowsEx can shut down a system without any permissions?

    [You still need SeShutdownPrivilege. But there are policies that say "Even though the user has SeShutdownPrivilege, don't show them the "Shut down" button." The policy is a UI policy, not a security policy. -Raymond]
  52. morlamweb says:

    @NoP: per the MSDN documentation, applications need a special privilege, SeShutdownPrivilege, in order to use ExitWindowsEx.  Good luck getting that priv as a limited-access user.

  53. morlamweb says:

    @640k: the Building Windows 8 blog post doesn't *conclude* with "Don't remove functionality"; that was one of the goals for the taskman redesign in Windows 8.  The post goes on to describe the many new features in taskman.  I suppose you didn't read past that point?  "Don't remove functionality" was, according to the blog, a goal for the Win7-Win8 taskman changes.  It sounds like the Shut Down option was removed in Windows Vista, prior to the Win8 redesign effort.

    Re: replacing Task Manager with Process Explorer as the built-in process management tool.  Mark Russinovich talked about this in one of his TechEd 2014 talks.  As I recall, his stated reason for not bundling procexp into Windows is that procexp updates would be tied to Windows releases.  Perhaps they could release updates via Windows Update, and if the faster Windows OS release cadence holds for the long term, then maybe bundling procexp isn't a bad idea.  Of course, it's not my call, and I would prefer to keep procexp as a downloadable tool.  Also, remember that taskman's default UI is simpler in Win8.  It's intended to aid non-savvy users in killing unresponsive apps.  Now, you want to go the opposite direction and throw the much more complicated procexp UI at them?!?  What are you thinking??

  54. alegr1 says:


    Members of "Users" have SeShutdownPrivilege in a default installation.

  55. Dr Wang says:

    Everyone with physical access has shutdown privileges.

  56. ender says:


    > You can also shut down a remote 2000/XP/2003 box using Start – Windows Security.

    Windows Security also works in Vista and 7. It was only crippled in Windows 8, but luckily you can still focus the taskbar or desktop and hit Alt+F4.

  57. Nick says:

    @ender: Shutting down Windows Server 2012 remotely is really easy: you bring up the charms, hit Settings, hit Power, hit Shut Down. Done.

  58. Gabe says:

    Nick: Good one! Due to Poe's Law, I almost started to argue with your definition of "easy".

    In all seriousness, though, do you know how to bring up the Charms on a remote connection that doesn't pass through the Win key?

  59. xpclient says:

    @Gabe, RDP's bar at the top contains a menu item to invoke Charms: andyparkes.co.uk/…/image_thumb5.png

  60. Gabe says:

    xpclient: Thanks, that's good to know. Of course, I can't use it because I don't have that version of mstsc and I don't usually use full-screen mode, it's nice to know they thought of that.

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