How to easily shutdown or restart Windows over Remote Desktop Connection

Posted by Paul Braren on Apr 4 2016 (updated on Apr 6 2016) in
  • Windows
  • Productivity
  • HomeLab
  • HomeServer
  • Problem

    The Shut down and Restart options are removed from the Start Menu when you’re connected using Remote Desktop (aka Terminal Services), as pictured above. These intentional omissions protect you from yourself, since there's a risk when doing such power operations remotely. If something goes wrong, you're presumably not there to fix it. That assumption isn't always true for home labs or VMs.

    This article is for sysadmins who know better, wanting to Shut down or Restart (or even enter Sleep) over RDP anyway! ;-)

    At left, user clicked on Start, Power, then has three choices. Using RDP at right, choices are rather limited.

    These two simple workarounds below are applicable to the following versions of Microsoft:

    • Windows 7
    • Windows 8/8.1
    • Windows 10

    whether it's installed on a PC, a server, or even in a VM (Virtual Machine)!

    Solution A - GUI + keyboard

    If your a keyboard shortcut fan, you may have already known that Alt+F4 closes the currently selected Windows application. When your desktop is selected, it stands to reason that typing Alt+F4 has the effect of telling Windows that you'd like to close Windows itself. Simple, elegant, and easy to remember!

    1. Press Win+D to minimized all open Windows to show your desktop
      (alternatively, you can left-click the lower-right corner)
    2. Press Alt+F4 to bring up the Shut Down Windows - What do you want the computer to do? dialog, where you can now choose any of the following list of actions:
      Sign out
      Shut down
    3. Select which option you want, then press Enter (or click OK), as pictured below.
    Looping video can be paused and un-muted, mouse-over to reveal controls.

    Alternatively, here's the same video on YouTube for you to share.

    Solution B - Command Prompt

    1. Open a Command Prompt
      a. To initiate a Shut down, type:
      shutdown /s /t 0 then press Enter

      b. To initiate a Restart, type:
      shutdown /r /t 0 then press Enter

    Because of the 0 second delay you specified, you'll want to be very sure you really intend to do this immediately, before you press that Enter key!

    Note: these techniques also work with Microsoft

    • Windows Server 2008/2008 R2
    • Windows Server 2012/2012 R2
    • Windows Server 2016

    but the start menu of those server OSs don't block access to the Shut down and Restart/Reboot options. This seems to indicate that Microsoft assumes only knowledgeable sysadmins would be using those OSs anyway.

    RDP Tips

    Courtesy of makeuseof's 5 Tips for Fixing Remote Desktop Screen Settings:

    CTRL+ALT+PAUSE: Switches your Remote Desktop client between full-screen and windowed mode.
    CTRL+ALT+BREAK: Force the Remote Desktop into full-screen mode.
    CTRL+ALT+MINUS: Takes a screenshot of the active Remote Desktop window.
    CTRL+ALT+PLUS: Takes a screenshot of the entire Remote Desktop.
    CTRL+ALT+END: Reboots the remote computer.

    Press CTRL+ALT+END, then click on the Power icon seen at bottom-right. These are the choices you may see, in Windows 10.

    I have noticed that with Windows 10 over RDP, typing CTRL+ALT+END will bring up the usual choice of options you get when typing CTRL+ALT+DEL, but the power options at bottom-right don't always show Shut down and Restart, as discussed below. Not sure why just yet. Whatever the reason, it would seem this handy single keystroke would be great to recommend, if only it was just as universal as the two techniques I detailed above.

    See also at TinkerTry

    I prefer the newer approach above, as it doesn't rely on any 3rd party software.