How to Safely Start Up & Shut Down Computers

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  • 0:03 Computers
  • 0:41 Start Up Steps and Sequence
  • 1:47 Shut Down Steps and Sequence
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Learn how to start up and shut down a computer, and the precautions you can take to avoid losing data. Discover the steps that computers themselves follow during start up and shut down.


Computers are pretty resilient these days. You can turn them on and off at random intervals, shake them around a bit, and maybe even drop them on the floor, and you 'might' find that nothing bad happens. But then again, it's probably not the best idea.

There's a reason that a computer follows certain steps when you turn it on and why you have to shut it down at the end of the day. It is strongly advised that you don't simply press the off switch to turn off your computer - there is a procedure to follow if you want avoid the likelihood of problems. In this lesson, we're going to go through the steps that you have to take to turn on and shut down the computer and what the computer is doing during that time.

Start Up Steps and Sequence

From a user perspective, starting a computer is easy. You simply press the on button and wait. But how it actually comes to life is far from simple and is a product of decades of development.

The first thing that happens when you turn on a computer is the motherboard - the part of the computer that everything else is connected to - checks for the basic hardware necessary to function. The software that does this is called the BIOS. It checks for RAM, a video card, a hard drive, a keyboard, and mouse, and looks for any obvious hardware problems.

The BIOS is in charge when your first turn on a computer
The BIOS is in charge when your first turn on a computer

The next step is it searches for something called a boot sector. A boot sector is a partition or section of a hard drive that is set up to load an operating system like Windows or Mac OS X. The BIOS basically looks for the part of the hard drive that's jumping up and down and waving, saying, 'Load me!' At that point, the work passes over to the operating system, which creates a copy of itself in memory and loads special programs called drivers, which run the various features of your computer. Once the drivers are loaded, the programs you have installed on your computer can be run. At that point you're ready to go.

Shut Down Steps and Sequence

Shutting down the computer isn't quite as simple. It's important from a user perspective to always click a shutdown button on your computer rather than simply turning it off at the switch. That's because you never know what your computer is doing in the background. Suddenly cutting off power could cause your files to become corrupted, and in rare cases can even damage the hardware. On a Windows computer, you can shut down by clicking on the start menu at the bottom left of the screen, and then simply pressing the 'shut down' button (sometimes labelled 'turn off computer').

Shut down option in the start menu
Shut down option in the start menu

On an Apple computer, you can click the Apple symbol in the top left of the screen, and again select 'shut down.'

Shut Down option in the Apple menu
Shut Down option in the Apple menu

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