How to Hard Reset a Laptop

By Joe Murray

A hard reset is generally a last resort to get your computer working again when it's not responsive to any other input. To hard reset your computer, you'll need to physically turn it off by cutting the power source and then turn it back on by reconnecting the power source and rebooting the machine. On a desktop computer, switch off the power supply or unplug the unit itself, then restart the machine in the normal manner. With a laptop computer, especially one with a non-removable battery, the process is slightly more complicated.

Why Reset?

There are a number of reasons a hard reset might be required. If the screen locks up and you are unable to use any of the keyboard or mouse controls, a hard reset is the only alternative. Should peripherals such as a printer, modem or router other external hardware issue a “not responding” message, a hard reset could solve the problem. If your computer locks up while you are booting Windows and shows a black screen with a flashing cursor in the upper left-hand corner, you probably need to try a hard reset. Although a hard reset may not solve your problem in all situations, it should be at the top of your list of procedures when any of the above occurs.

Procedure With Removable Battery

When a hard reset becomes necessary, unplug any external power source and remove the battery. Press and hold the power button or “Start” button for five to ten seconds to release any residual electrical charge stored in the machine’s circuitry. Reconnect the external power supply without reinstalling the battery. Press the power or “Start” button as you would normally to boot your laptop. When the Windows warning screen stating the Windows was not shut down normally appears, select the “Start Windows Normally” dialog if it is not already highlighted. Windows should start and your laptop should perform as usual. Reconnect the battery after the hard reset is successful.

Procedure Without Removable Battery

Detach all connections such as power, printer, storage and other peripherals from your laptop. If your laptop has a non-removable, fixed or sealed battery compartment, refer to the manufacturer’s Web page to find the keyboard combination that drains any residual electrical charge. On most models, press and hold the “Start” or power button for ten seconds to perform this task; some machines require a second key to be depressed simultaneously to accomplish the discharge. Reconnect the external power supply. Press the power or “Start” button as you would normally to boot your laptop. When the Windows warning screen stating the Windows was not shut down normally appears, select the “Start Windows Normally” dialog if it is not already highlighted. Windows should start and your laptop should perform as usual.

Possible Causes

Your laptop may lock up due to several causes; perform some tests to try to determine the cause. Scan with anti-virus software to check for virus or malware infection. Try running a full diagnostic scan and generate a report in the Windows Advanced System Tools program menu. Check for software and BIOS updates. Run the system memory test. Check your peripherals for faults by connecting them one at a time and rebooting your laptop. If your system locks immediately or soon after installing the peripheral, repair or replace the faulty component. If your laptop requires a hard reset on a regular basis, try reloading your operating system and system software. Hard resets do not harm your laptop hardware but may eventually affect the performance of your operating system or system software.