Turning computers on and off


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Turning computers on and off

a close up of a power switch on a computer

What's coming up?

This activity will introduce you to the process of turning your computer or laptop on and off. It will also show you how you can:

  • lock your screen
  • restart your computer
  • log off from your user account.
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Turning the computer on

All computers and laptops have a power button that you press to turn them on, and they are often marked with the same symbol.

Look at your computer and see if you can find a button that looks like this.

Although the exact location varies, you will usually find it on the front of the computer case on a desktop computer, or at the top of the keyboard on a laptop.

a typical power switch for a computer or screen
an example of an Apple and a Windows start up animation

Waiting for the computer to start

When you switch on your computer, it will take some time before you can use it. This is because the computer needs time to start up.

During the start up process, there is usually a small animation, such as a spinning circle, on the screen. When the animation stops, you can start to use the computer.

If you have other devices attached to your computer, you may want to turn these on as well – for example, your monitor, printer and speakers.

The on/off button on your monitor and printer will look like the power button for the computer. However, depending on the design of the speakers, the on/off button on your speakers may be a dial that you turn.

three icons for speakers, printer or screen
a computer monitor showing a password message

Logging on

Once turned on, your computer will prompt you to enter your username and password if you have set this up.

This is known as logging on and, if you are using a computer that is shared with others, it's a good idea to have your own private username and password. This will allow you to save personal files and view information that is only relevant to you in a special, protected part of the computer that others cannot see without your username and password details.

an icon of a padlock

eSafety tip

For your computer password, think of one that doesn't include any personal information such as your name or date of birth.

If you could use a little help coming up with a new password that's easy for you to remember, but difficult for someone else to guess, we have some great tips in our Safe passwords course.

Locking the screen

From time to time, we all need a break. If you need to step away from the computer for a few moments, you can simply lock the screen. The computer stays powered on, but nobody will be able to see what you are working on while you are away.

To lock your screen, hold down the Ctrl, Alt and Delete keys all at the same time and click on the Lock option from the menu that appears. To unlock the screen, hold down the same keys and then enter your password.

This shortcut might be tricky to master, but it's worth practising!

a close up of the Ctrl, Alt and Delete keys on a keyboard
a close up of the log off menu option on a Windows computer

Logging off

You also have the option of logging off, where you sign out of the computer. This allows the computer to stay switched on, and also protects your privacy.

This is a good option if you're taking a longer break from your computer, particularly if you are sharing your computer with other people. It saves you from having to restart the computer all over again. When you get back to the computer you will need to log in again.

To log off, save your files and click on the Windows icon in the bottom-left of the screen and click on the Power icon, then click on Log off.

a close up of the Restart option on a Windows computer

Restarting your computer

From time to time, your computer might have important updates to its programs and security settings. This often requires you to restart the computer. To do this, click on the Windows icon in the bottom-left of screen and click on the Power icon.

A range of options will appear. From these options, click on Restart. Your computer will then cycle through a shut down and restart and may install updates along the way.

A restart might take just a few minutes or, if there are several major updates required, considerably longer, so it's best to go through the restart process relatively often to ensure your computer is kept up to date.

Turning the computer off

If you are finished working on the computer for the day, it's a good idea to switch it off. However, it is very important to shut down the computer properly before switching off power. Shutting down properly gives the computer time to safely close programs that are running in the background and protects your files and computer from damage.

Before shutting down, save anything you've been working on and close all of the open applications or programs. Then, click the Windows icon in the bottom-left of the screen and click on the Power icon. A range of options will appear. From this list, click on Shut down.

a close up of the power off symbol on a Windows computer

Well done!

You've completed the Turning computers on and off activity.

In this activity, we found that computers and laptops use the same type of power button symbol, that you have to wait for your computer to start up before you can use it, and you use the Windows button to turn your computer off.

In the next activity, Changing computer settings, you'll find out how you can personalise your computer to suit your preferences.

a close up of someone about to press the power button on a laptop