Disabling automatic termination of programs blocking shutdown

If your organization has applications that tend to take a long time to shut down, you may get helpdesk calls from frustrated users. That's because by default in Windows Vista and later when you try and shut down or restart your computer, Windows will automatically terminate running programs after a preconfigured period of time. During this time a black screen saying "N programs still need to close" where N is the number of running programs, and on this screen the names of each program will also be displayed. The screen also gives you the opportunity to either forcibly shutdown or restart Windows (which terminates the running programs) or you can click Cancel and return to your desktop so you can close the programs gracefully. But if you don't make a choice, Windows will eventually terminate the running programs so the computer can shutdown or restart. Unfortunately terminating programs "ungracefully" like this can result in data loss if the program was working with some important data at the time, and when that happens users may phone helpdesk and complain that they lost data because of this behavior.

To resolve this situation, you can enable the following Group Policy setting for the targeted computers:

  • System\Shutdown Options\Turn off automatic termination of applications that block or cancel shutdown

Doing this will cause Windows to continue to display the "N programs still need to close" screen until the user chooses one of the two options available there. Windows will no longer automatically terminate running programs after a period of inactivity from the user.

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