Question for you MrGroove – With the launch of Windows 7, Microsoft promised reboots would be a vary “rare” thing however now that I’ve been running it for over 6 months, reboots are still occurring during and sometimes even before I install some new software. Why do we need to reboot our computers so often? How come every time a system change occurs a reboot is required? Why do most programs require a restart after installation?
1. Why are reboots required?
A lot of applications and Windows Updates require access to core system files, which are always in use while Windows is running. In order for a program (or update) to integrate itself into the required Windows Components, the files representing the components mustn’t be in use. Since most of the core system files are in use while Windows is running, however, there is no other way to complete the installation cleanly without restarting.
Honestly, Microsoft has done a great job minimize reboots however they as well as 3rd party software publishers will normally error on the side of caution and prompt you for a reboot whether or not one is required from the software install. Many for instance during a software patch or upgrade like to do a full uninstall, get a clean reboot then re-install their software in order to prevent possible issues and calls to their support desk… Can’t say I blame them. ;)
2. Are there any programs that can tell me when to reboot?
Yes. A great example is WhyReboot – tiny portable applications that can tell you if you really need to reboot or not. As mentioned above, some application installers will ask you to reboot just as a safety measure even though you technically don’t need to reboot. If you’re ever left in front of the redundant message “Would you like to reboot now?” again, a quick run of WhyReboot will let you know about any pending operations, saving you the trouble of having to go to the registry.
3. Where is the list of pending operations upon restart stored?
The lists are stored in the registry in:
By the names of the string locations you would have already guessed what they’re about – the first one is for any pending file replacements, renames, deletions, and others, and the second one is the location where windows writes down any installs in progress (which applications are forcing the reboot). We’ll kindly advise you not to touch any of the contents in either of the strings because simply put – the best-case scenario is if you touch these files will be having to reinstall Windows because of an incorrectly installed update. I guess you can still use these strings informatively, to understand which system files an update (or application) modifies upon install.
4. Is there any way of editing core files while they are in use?
Nope. Not at all. A reboot is the only and only way to modify a core system file or a file in use. Sure, you could technically end the process which is using that file, but quitting such processes while windows are running can completely crash your computer. Besides, reboots aren’t really that painful. It’s not like you need to reboot several times a day. Being the geeky guy I am, installing software and making updates every day, my personal record of most reboots in one day is only 10 (guess…).