“Have you tried rebooting?”  I’m sure you’ve heard this before.  It may sound like a cop-out, but it’s actually a valid and effective solution for many minor problems.

The best parallel I have found compares the malfunctioning PC to writing an email.  Imagine you are writing an email, and your coworker walks by and greets you. You’re interrupted for a few seconds, but you can continue with the task. Now imagine you are working on an email and get a phone call from your child at school saying they forgot their lunch. Before you can hang up, your boss stops by and assigns you a new task. As your boss is leaving, a team member stops by to schedule a meeting next week.  After the stream of interruptions stops, you may find it difficult to pick up where you left off, and you may have to go back to the beginning, or start over completely.

This is what happens to your PC. A single error (or interruption) can be handled in the background without you noticing.  Several errors may slow down your PC, but it may continue to operate and repair them in the background. If those errors can’t be corrected, the system may not be able to recover. Your device may freeze, or display the eternally spinning beach ball for Mac, or “blue screen of death” for Windows.

Rebooting is fast, easy, and inexpensive.  Usually by ending all operations and allowing them to start up normally again, the errors are corrected, and they will not reoccur.  If they do persist, rebooting helps pinpoint precisely when the errors begin – perhaps after you load a certain program or add on.

So, if your PC is having performance issues, (and if you’re not at risk for data loss) go ahead and just turn it off and back on again.