Manually shutting down a PC is easy enough – assuming you can find the power menu, anyway – but automating the process takes a little more work. And even if you spend a while playing with your power options, shutdown.exe and Task Scheduler, it still might not deliver what you need.
Fortunately there’s plenty of freeware around to help automate all your shutdown, restart, sleep and other power-related tasks.
ShutMeDown is an interesting program which can be used in many ways.
At a minimum, it works as an extended power menu. Clicking the system tray icon displays a long list of options – Lock, Log Off, Sleep, Restart, Hibernate, Hybrid Shut Down, Shut Down – and you can carry out any of these in a couple of clicks.
The program also has a capable scheduler. It’s able to run your chosen task at a particular time (5pm tonight), after a period of time has elapsed (in 4 hours from now), or after you’ve been using your PC for a certain amount of time (you might allow your kids a total of 2 hours use per day, but this can be whenever they like).
There’s plenty of flexibility in how this works. You can have applications prompt you to save work, or close down regardless; tasks can be cancelled, or password-protected to ensure they’re carried out.
However it’s set up, ShutMeDown’s desktop gadget keeps you up-to-date with any countdown, which should hopefully mean you’re not too surprised when the shutdown arrives.
Airytec Switch Off also equips your PC with an extended power menu. Right-clicking its system tray icon displays all the usual shutdown and restart tasks, and if you choose one, and click Now, it’s carried out immediately.
What’s more interesting is that the same menu includes options to carry out your task in 5, 15 or 30 minutes, 1, 2 or 5 hours, as well as providing a scheduler to run it whenever you like.
Another plus is the task may be launched at the time you’ve specified (in 15 minutes), or when the computer or user has been idle (there’s been no significant CPU, keyboard or mouse usage for the last 15 minutes).
For real flexibility, there’s even an option to run a predefined Windows script (CMD or BAT). If you know what you’re doing, this means you could run one or more applications first, then close your system with shutdown.exe.
Factor in Airytec Switch Off’s download size – 69.8KB for the portable version, really? – and it’s all very impressive. The program hasn’t been updated since it was made freeware, but still appears to work with all Windows versions from XP, and would be our first automated shutdown choice.