Ctrl+Esc, U, Enter: Shutdown Windows (XP and earlier)

This is a keyboard sequence, so let’s understand it in order:

  • Ctrl+Esc opens the Start menu. (Instead, you could use the Windows key.)
  • Pressing the u key selects whichever menu item has an underlined u. In this case, we want to select the “Shut Down…” command. The “u” in “Shut Down…” is underlined, which means you can press the u key key to select it. (Note that if your menu has other options that begin with a U, such as “User Preferences,” then you’ll have to hit u more than once and then hit Enter when Shut Down is selected.)
  • A dialog box labeled “Shut Down Windows” or “Turn off computer” appears. Windows remembers the last option you selected when shutting down. If “Shut down” is the highlighted option, you can press Enter to select it. If the wrong option is selected, you can change the selected option with the arrow keys before you press Enter.

49 thoughts on “Ctrl+Esc, U, Enter: Shutdown Windows (XP and earlier)”

  1. Sadly, this doesn’t work in Vista. After you hit the Windows key (or Ctrl-Esc in your example) all keyboard input then goes in to the search dialog.

  2. It doesn’t work that way on mine, but that is because I use UltraVNC so that program ends up on the start menu because I use it so often.

    I have to hit ‘U’ twice to get to the right option.

  3. HiDefDog, thanks for the note. I don’t have Vista yet. :) The About this blog page mentions which versions of Windows these keyboard shortcuts are intended for. After I get Vista (and learn the shortcuts), I’ll go back and update the blog.

    I have to say I’m a bit upset that Microsoft (after 12 years of being more or less consistent) is breaking backwards-compatibility for keyboard shortcuts in Vista.

    Tony, good point — I updated the original entry. For you, I recommend the following sequence instead: Ctrl+Esc, Up Arrow (which should always highlight the bottom menu item, which is Shut Down…), then Enter.

  4. I always use [windows key]+U, then U again to shutdown, and [windows key]+u, then s to standby. This seems to not make my hands move around the keyboard as much.

  5. I was also really disappointed about Vista. I figure I’ll get a shutdown command line utility and give it a hotkey via the Quick Launch toolbar (for a future WKSotD, WIN+ launches a Quick Launch shortcut in Vista).

    Tony, I have a trick to get around that: right-click the icon of the program you use a lot that’s stealing a shortcut key (in this case UltraVNC) and pin it to the start menu. Then, right click the new pin entry and rename it. Change it to something that starts with an unused letter, like “Launch UltraVNC” or just “VNC Client”. You’ll know what it means, and it will restore your single-key shutdown.

  6. James, thanks for the great comment (and help with Vista, which I confess I know nothing about).

    I actually do something similar with my Start menu: I rename them to put numbers in front of my added programs (and then sort them), so that the keyboard shortcuts for my most frequently used program is just the Windows key followed by a number. I have a few similar customization tips coming up.

  7. Great shortcut! I’ve used this many times myself when a monitor/graphics card was on the fritz and i didn’t want to do a hard reset.

  8. It’s not perfect, but there is a way to shut down from the keyboard in Vista.

    Press Alt+F4, then either R and Enter to restart or S, S, Enter to Shutdown.


    Press the Windows Key
    Press Right three times
    Press R to restart or U to shutdown.

  9. I can’t get my vista (premium) to shut down in any of the ways you guys posted. Right now the pc is not letting me click on anything except home, sleep and lock. Are there any other ways you can suggest without having to shut down via power button?

  10. grrr. didn’t take my special characters.

    windows key plus U key plus uparrow plus enter

    or ctl esc instead of windows key.

  11. estephen, might make a good title for this page lol, and
    then have a (BV) and (AV) Before and After Vista (of course) sections of your hints.

  12. Thanks Ranchy! I updated the title. I’ll do a Windows Vista version after I can test a bit. Thanks so much to everyone who contributed comments about Vista — great job!

  13. My home computer is XP, haven’t tried your method but I’ll take your word for it that it will work.

    My laptop is Vista, and I tested out the fastest way (that I know of) for the shutdown “shortcut” key:

    CTRL + ESC (or windows button)
    TAB x2
    RIGHT x2

    I’m not sure if you have to do anything extra because I haven’t tried anything past the RIGHT x2. Too lazy to wait 5 minutes for my computer to start up again if I follow through… =P

  14. Hi ton all,

    I think we all want some very small and easy shortcut key to shutdown, if we can reconfigure some key that will stand for shutdown like if we press “Shift” key for 5 times it will active stick keys, in similar manner if anyone can tell us is there any other same way to shutdown our pc like suppose alt+ctrl+shift+s”=shutdown then we wont have to do any thing, do any one have any idea about any such way to configure our key?

    Thanks in advance
    to those who will suggest us the needed stps :)

  15. yer your teachings is correct and perfect, but what about the key to restart windows , and the one to maximize your program you minimize.
    thank you very much.hope to hear from you soon.

  16. i have several problems.my laptops help and support is not working ,network icon say there are no connections when they are there.on starting the dell inspiron 1018 it say windows service no responding.PLEASE HELP

  17. Ctrl+Ese, this create a underline in all the commands that appear in the start window we just click on the letter then the command is working. for example for shut down window:
    ctrl+ese, then click on U a shut down windows is appear then click U,

  18. For Windows 7

    To Shutdown: Windows Key+Alt Key then F4
    To Open Run: Windows Key+R
    To Open Start Menu: CTRL+ESC
    To Lock Computer: CTRL+L
    To Select All: CTRL+A
    To Undo Something:CTRL+Z

    It might work on other softwares aswell

  19. hi, please help me. i’m just wondering and a bit annoyed every time i press CTRL on my keyboard my PC shutdown! how is it possible? that’s why i cannot use it when selecting a multiple items e.g pics, files at the same time.
    can you help me fix it?

  20. Help me! When i open my computer the microsoft runing image is apeared but after that theres no program will apear in the monitor even i wait it for a day..wat should i do to fix this.

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