If you install and run or manage a Windows Server OS you've probably run into the annoying shut down dialog. You know what I mean - that dialog we curse at that slows down or 'hangs' the shutdown. Maybe you have even been so lucky by walking away after clicking Restart on the machine and forgetting about the damn dialog hanging the system before rebooting/restarting. You walk away thinking you're done only to find the server hung an hour later. Well, just did that - thankfully on  test install, thank you very much. It's not a secret how to get around this and it's easy to fix, but buried deep enough that it's easy to not find it immediately and so not fix it.

I'm running through a few test installs on my new server, which arrived yesterday. I'm installing Windows 2008 Server on it and running through my configuration scenarios. This is actually the first time for me on Win2008 and so I'm purposefully going through the server configuration and installation to familiarize myself a little better with the OS in general. I know Win2003 pretty well but Server 2008 is going to take some time to get used to. Overall things are going well, but I've done 4 separate installs now with one main install and 3 virtual installs to experiment with the Server 2008 hypervisor. And each time I've run into the shutdown dialog about 5 times of Microsoft software related reboots.

Here's my friendly dialog being given the finger:

ShutDownDialog1 
 
Most helpful. I can't remember that I've EVER put anything useful into this dialog other than "F*** you". I'd love to see the record that Microsoft gets from this - I'm sure there are some choice comments.

Well as it turns out this data isn't even going to Microsoft - instead it's going into the event log so net admins can get a chart out and see just how often Windows needed to be rebooted. Yippieh - how enormously useful.

Anyway, the dialog is very annoying and althogh easy to disable it's not exactly obvious. Here's how:

  • Run the Group Policy Editor by running gpEdit.msc from the Run box
  • Navigate to Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | System and find Display Shutdown Event Tracker

Like this:

ShutdownEventDialog

and poof it's gone. Peace and quiet returns to the shutdown process. The same approach can be used in Server 2003, although I think the setting name is negated - something like Don't display Shutdown Event Tracker or such.

Now, I'd really like to know if there's anybody who's using this tool religiously and putting nice little comments into it and evaluating this data. I think more than anything this thing is just annoying the heck out of people and having it on by default just seems a plain bad call. All it is is counterproductive and pissing people off - one more reason that Big Brother is watching and 'controlling our machines'. Not so, but the perception is there and this one thing that just doesn't need to be there.

It's not like we don't know what causes restarts - it's no secret to Microsoft that 90% of reboots in Windows are caused not by any failures, but by Microsoft Software Installations which are amongst the most intrusive types of applications that install on any system. And Microsoft probably knows that already and so do we. Duh!

It's easy to fix of course, but it's buried several levels deep and just inconvenient enough that it gets put off and off again and never done in the end. In fact, I just noticed that my live Web server box (running Win2003) still has the dialog popping up, because, well it didn't seem so important at the time, but I know it has annoyed me more than a few times and I couldn't offhand remember how to turn off the dialog, so it's stayed up - for 5 years. Why not make it obvious and have a check box option on the dialog to turn it off?

Life should be so easy.

This is nothing new of course and if you want to find out more about what the Shutdown Event Tracker does, how it's supposedly useful and where it stores this information this link provides additional information.