"Hello, IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
— Roy, The IT Crowd
Whenever technology misbehaves, restarting or power cycling it usually solves the problem. This is Truth in Television, as explained here.
See also Cut the Juice, the slightly more direct approach. Not to be confused with a Soft Reset.
Various Game-Breaking Bugs that freeze a game or otherwise cause problems can be overcome by restarting the system you're playing it on. Just keep in mind that this may set you back by rolling back unsaved progress.
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- A series of Dilbert strips had Dogbert working in tech support, and had several jokes based on the concept. In one strip, he advises the customer not just to restart the computer, but restart everything. "Cancel your garbage service, renounce your citizenship, and yank out your phone." Another went like this:
Customer: Hello, I...
Dogbert: Shut up and reboot.
Customer: Hey, it work...
Dogbert: Shut up and hang up.
Dogbert: [thinks] My average call time is improving.
- Referenced a few times with the Androids in Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
- After 17 is first activated:
Android 17: See, every time you spoke I just kept hearing "Kill me! Kill me!" Probably an issue with my auditory.
Dr. Gero: Well, maybe you just needed to be turned off and then on again.
Android 17: Imagine that.
- After 16 has been badly damaged and has a giant hole in his head:
Android 16: Island: noun. Island: noun. Island...
Android 18: Okay, we have got to get you fixed up.
Android 16: Have you tried turning me off and on again?
- After 17 is first activated:
- In All Guardsmen Party, when the team discusses how to deal with a techpriest who nearly got them killed several times, another techpriest suggests turning him off an on again. With their laspistols. Turning him back on might be difficult, but it's worth a try.
Films — Live-Action
- In Jurassic Park (1993), after the computer system locks out the operators, it is suggested they try restarting it entirely. It's worth noting in that film it actually works, but it inadvertently trips the breaker switches, meaning that they had to flip the switches back on before the restart could proceed. And those switches are in a bunker on the other side of the complex. Outside. Where the dinosaurs are now running loose. It also turns off the electric fence around the raptor cage, which they're smart enough to notice.
- In Mission to Mars, when the onboard computers on the ship malfunction after a meteor strike, the solution used is to power cycle them, forcing a hard boot. On systems that were too expensive to ever test such a thing on.
- In Iron Man 2, Rhodes finally has his hijacked suit freed when Black Widow reboots it.
- At the beginning of Skyscraper, Will tells his wife to do it to her phone. Becomes a Brick Joke when she does it at the end of the movie to successfully bring on the fire extinguishing systems of the Pearl.
- Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts: In "Specimen", the botanical lab detects a biological contamination (a facehugger) and goes into Lock Down with Julie trapped inside. Dev reboots the system to unlock it, turning off all the lights.
- X-Wing Series: In Wraith Squadron, Kell's instructions to fix Donos's R2 unit, Shiner, basically consist of inserting a Restraining Bolt into Shiner and using it merely as a switch, to turn him off and back on. This broke the programming loop Shiner was stuck in due to an ion-and-EMP mine that everyone had run into earlier.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "Ceremonies of Light and Dark", this is the last step in resetting the command codes, which is needed after the station seceded from the Earth Alliance. Unexpectedly, this causes a minor problem in the form of the activation of a long-forgotten, and completely obnoxious, personality program,note which they have to spend the rest of the episode disabling. Special mention goes to Garibaldi getting so fed up with it that he shoots the speaker in the elevator.
- The IT Crowd:
- The Establishing Character Moment for both Roy and Moss shows each of them giving callers this advice in their own idiosyncratic style:
Roy: Hello, IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?... OK, well, the button on the side. Is it glowing?... Yeah, you need to turn it on.... Err, the button turns it on.... Yeah, you do know how a button works, don't you? No, not on clothes.
Moss: [phone rings] Hello, IT. ... Yuhuh. Have you tried forcing an unexpected reboot?
Roy: No, there you go, I just heard it come on!... No, that's the music you hear when it comes on.... No, that's the music you hear when... I'm sorry, are you from the past?
Moss: You see, the drive hooks a function by patching the system core table so it's not safe to unload it unless another thread is about to jump in there and do its stuff. And you don't want to end up in the middle of invalid memory! [laughs] ...Hello?
- A later episode has the team rigging a tape recorder to the phones where all callers are simply told to turn it off and then on again regardless of what the problem is. If someone says they have, it continues "Have you tried making sure it's plugged in?" And believe it or not, it works.
- It becomes a Running Gag for the show and a Catchphrase for Roy. One episode has Roy lampshade how it's become a catchphrase and he makes a bet with Jen not to say it the rest of the day.
Roy: Hello, IT have you tried, you know what I'm sick of saying that WHAT DO YOU WANT!?
Roy: Hello, IT, have you tried turning it off and on again? Well have you tried sticking it up your arse!?
Roy: Have you finished that step? Well that step is very important, there's no way you can do the next step if you don't complete that step. So. Now. TURN IT BACK ON AGAIN! [slams phone down]
Roy: It's like a bloody catchphrase, if I didn't have you and Moss to talk to it would be the only thing I say.
- The Establishing Character Moment for both Roy and Moss shows each of them giving callers this advice in their own idiosyncratic style:
- The Big Bang Theory:
- Howard has a prototype robotic arm grabbing him by the... let's just say it's somewhere personal, and is sent to the hospital. The nurse asks if they tried turning the computer controlling the arm off and then on again, and while Howard loudly objects to the idea, the nurse does just that and the arm lets go. However, Howard's main objection was that he could not be sure if the rebooted robot arm would release its grip first or if it would instead move while still holding on to the sensitive body part which could do serious injury to Howard.
- Another episode makes reference to this. Sheldon's been working literally all night on a physics problem, and he's continuing to do so while at lunch with the guys. Howard jokingly asks Leonard if he's tried rebooting him (since he's stuck), to which Leonard laughs and replies, "No, I think it's a firmware problem."
- Star Trek:
- Hilariously, a simple system restore is the solution to a ship-threatening alien program in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Contagion". In the future, we apparently won't remember the purpose of protected backup archives. It takes Data doing the same thing as a natural function of his programming (his creator Soong was Crazy-Prepared like that) to remind Geordi.
- Star Trek: Enterprise:
- Ridiculously, this was the solution to a ship-threatening problem. When Klingons sabotage the computer running the warp core, Trip restarts it to restore the computer to default settings. The ridiculous part is that the ship was stuck in MAXIMUM WARP at the time, and they were restarting the ENGINE. (The Enterprise's sister ship, Columbia, expanded its warp field to carry Enterprise during the restart.)
- Also finally revealed was just how it was possible for Soong, the creator of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, to be so Crazy-Prepared: his family had spent at least two centuries planning the androids, and at least some of them were really paranoid.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Swarm", when the Doctor starts running into increasingly serious failures and memory issues from having been running actively for much longer than his programmers anticipated,note rebooting him is one of the solutions proposed. The problem isn't that it wouldn't work, but rather that it would work too well; it would reset him to factory default and wipe out all the Character Development he's gotten since first initialization.
- Likewise, in one episode of Stargate Atlantis, they deal with a Wraith virus with a system reformat and reboot. Multiple times. The virus is very persistent (and sneaky) and keeps hiding in computers not directly connected to the main system but still uplinked by wireless.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Solitudes", Carter reboots the Beta Gate's DHD to try and get a connection, which fails, to her dismay. However, this causes a seismic vibration, which ultimately leads to her and Jack O'Neill being rescued by the SGC.
- Subverted in a skit in French and Saunders involving Jennifer's laptop freezing and Dawn repeatedly trying to fix it by suggesting that they "close it and open it again". After twenty minutes of trying everything, including a reboot, they simply close and open the lid and sure enough, it works again.
- The very first episode of Leverage has the crew sabotage a receptionist's computer and send in Elliot disguised as an IT tech. He asks the receptionist if she tried rebooting and Hardison (listening over the radio) proudly tells the others that he taught Elliot to do that.
- In one episode of Supernatural, Sam is brainwashed into being a tech support worker (long story). His job consists of him saying this over and over again.
- In one episode of RoboCop: The Series, this is done as part of a series of emergency repairs on the title character. It's not done casually, as shutting down his robotic parts has the potential to damage his organic parts, thus hypothetically killing Alex Murphy to repair RoboCop.
- Gibbs from NCIS thinks that every computer problem can be solved this way, despite what everyone else tries to tell him.
- In "Lasting Impressions" from The Orville, the crew finds a 2015 time capsule with a mobile phone in it. The circuitry is degraded but they are able to fix it, or at least it seems like it should be working, but they still can't get it to work. Yaphit suggests turning it off and then back on. This solves the problem.
- As with the movie, Data East's Jurassic Park pinball machine has the "System Boot" mode, which requires the player to shoot Hammond's Bunker, Control Room, and the Power Shed to reboot the park's computer systems.
- The Programmer from Citizens of Earth can reboot his own body. True enough to this trope, doing so will fix absolutely everything with him, giving him full restoration of HP and energy, removal of all debuffs, and even resurrecting him if he died between starting the reboot and completing it. The disadvantage of this skill is that Programmer becomes useless for the two turns it takes to reboot, and most battles (even boss battles) are rather short.
- Slipped in for laughs in Black Mesa, by a scientist who suggests to a guard whose computer has hit a blue-screen, "Try hitting Control-Alt-Delete".note This in particular is aimed at the original Half-Life where said guard is using a computer like he's typing, but its monitor has bluescreened.
- This is actually how you reach the final level of X-Men (1993). The X-Men will be met with Professor X, who tells the team how to finally escape the Danger Room by telling them to defeat and reset the computer putting them through the mess. Professor X points out specifically that you must be the one to reset the computer. Once you defeat Mojo, find the computer and destroy it, you must literally hit the reset button on your Sega Genesis to get to the next stage (lightly, not hard)
- When Estelle and Joshua reach Zeiss in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, Tita is called away to help troubleshoot the Capel, but is unable to find the problem. However, after a city-wide blackout caused by the Black Orbment forces it to reboot, it works flawlessly.
- The Blues in Red vs. Blue have apparently used this technique a few times.
Church: Never mind. Just go back down there, and see if you can reboot Sheila.
Doc: Reboot her?
Tucker: Yeah dude, that's how you fix broken stuff. You turn her off, and then you turn her back on again. She'll be fine.
Doc: I don't think that'll work.
Church: Uh, pardon me, it works great. We already rebooted the toaster, we rebooted the teleporter...
Tucker: Yeah, I still don't know if that thing has all the bugs worked out.
Church: We even rebooted Caboose's armour once. Although, that took a lot longer to come back online than we thought it would.
Caboose: It was dark and I got to hold my breath. I'm pretty sure there was no side-effects.
- Reverse Jurassic Park:
Mr. Robustus: Oh well, this will be an easy fix. All I have to do is press the reset button!
Mr. Cabazai: Wait! What are you doing?!? [power goes out] You do realize you just shut off the bloody juice to the human pen, right?
Mr. Robustus: Hmm... I did not know that.
- This xkcd comic shows what happens if you take this too far. There are problems that can't be solved by rebooting.
- The Non-Adventures of Wonderella: As it turns out, there's a difference between rebooting, and really rebooting.
- Done in a strip of League of Super Redundant Heroes in order to bring a robotic soldier under control.
- Parodied in a number of weird ways in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
"The condom broke.""Try taking it off and putting it back on again."
"Suddenly I'm not thinking of all my normal anxieties.""People are simpler machines than we realize."
- In one strip, this is applied to a human being by turning him on (by showing him a video of a naked woman dancing), turning him off (a video of his grandfather masticating a piece of chewing tobacco), then turning him on again.
- A chimpanzee learns to do a rudimentary form of tech support: "He pointed to the symbol for 'off switch', then the symbol for 'on switch', and then just shrugged for ten minutes."
- Comic for 2013-08-08: Doesn't work so well when a robot tries it on a human. Turns out, if you turn one of those off (not talking about arousal this time), it won't start again at all.
- The Strip "On" jokes that computers only want to be rebooted because it's an orgasm to them.
- The 8-Bit Guy brings this up a few times:
- One of the criticisms with modern-day computers as compared to the ones he grew up with like the Commodore 64 evokes this when he describes how tech support back then was genuinely helpful and came from actual trained experts, while tech support today is incredibly unhelpful and comes from an untrained temp worker who can barely speak English and whose "help" is limited to more or less telling you to try rebooting, updating, and uninstalling software that didn't come with the computer.
- And again in his "Tales from Tech Support" video he recalls a co-worker who would basically do this to weasel out of any caller whose problem he couldn't fix. He'd advise them to do a defrag, run scandisk, and then reboot, and call back if it didn't work. Naturally it almost never did, but it would always be some other poor tech support guy who picked up when those customers called back more irate than ever. Naturally, this meant said co-worker would also take much more calls than the others since he was effectively shooing away people as quickly as possible, and he had the gall to brag about how much better at tech support he was than everyone else.
- In the CollegeHumor video "The Matrix Runs On Windows XP," Morpheus orders the simulation to freeze during the training exercise — but when he tries to unfreeze it...
Morpheus: Unfreeze. (nothing happens) Unfreeze. (sighs) This happens from time to time, go on without me. (angrily) Try Ctrl-Alt-Delete!
- Linus Tech Tips: Discussed in the Techquickie episode "Why Does Rebooting Fix So Many Problems?" Linus explains that programs can experience errors they cannot fix by themselves, and that a computer might just get cluttered with processes after staying on a long time.
- You Know Whats Bullshit: The Bullshit Man tries this on his printer when it won't print. It doesn't work.
- Episode 60 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series has Melvin struggle with Millennium Item tech support, and the first thing they suggest is to reboot the Millennium Rod.
Melvin: Since when did this thing have an on/off switch? It's a magical artifact!
- In Arthur, "The Longest Eleven Minutes" has Arthur, Muffy, Buster, and Ladonna disappointed when their internet cuts out. They call Brain for help, and he advises them to unplug and replug the router; however, they've already tried this (unsuccessfully), and instead play outside while waiting for the internet to come back on.
- Ben 10:
- Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: In the episode "Fused", Ben gets stuck as an Ampfibian and Kevin uses a machine to reboot the Ultimatrix.
- In Omniverse, Blukic and Driba (Genius Ditz, Those Two Guys) were where they weren't supposed to be when trouble started, one says that they should stay put and catch a ride back with Ben and Rook. The other strikes that idea down immediately; they'd be in some kind of trouble if they were found out, and he was not going back to tech support, telling people to turn their computers off and then on again.
- In Peppa Pig, this is Daddy Pig's go-to way of fixing almost anything run by a computer including Mr. Dog's car wash.
- ReBoot used this as a Deus ex Machina. The User restarting his computer restores Mainframe after a system crash.
- South Park: When the internet stops and plunges the world into chaos, Kyle travels to the center of the internet, where he finds that it's a giant router. He simply unplugs it and plugs it back in, and the internet is up and running again.
- Referenced in The Simpsons when they ran a Futurama Crossover. Bender gets sent back in time to the Simpson's time where the memory circuit containing his primary mission stops working. Professor Frink restores his memory with a "delicate procedure we call 'unplug and replug'" doing just that with the HDD in Bender's head.
- Apollo 12 came very close to an abort when it was hit twice by lightning during launch, which resulted in the partial failure of the Command Module's computer, giving both all three astronauts aboard and Mission Control blank screens. Flight Controller John Aaron remembered the pattern of system failure from a previous test and gave instruction on switching "SCE to Aux" which rebooted the telemetry data off of a backup power supply. The command was so obscure that the neither flight director, CAPCOM nor Mission Commander Pete Conrad even knew what it meant. Luckily Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean remembered it from a simulated test nearly a year prior. Apollo 12 carried out the mission successfully, and John Aaron was given the highest unofficial award NASA has: being called a "steely-eyed missile man." The incident also proved the value of giving each stage of the Saturn V its own internal control computer. While the Command Module's nav system had no idea where the ship was (having been scrambled, but not damaged, by the surges of the strikes), the individual stage computers did their own jobs without difficulty and put the ship in orbit, where the crew was able to easily reset the nav system and proceed on schedule.
- Being a very common real-life form of troubleshooting, this naturally became a part of the lexicon for early programmers. It was considered foolish to power-cycle something if you didn't know what was going on, but it was also absolutely essential at times when you did know what was going on. Observe.
- It also applies to the problems experienced during network operations. At the lightest you can expect the little refresh button to solve your connection problems or something failing to load (just don't do it during transmission of sensitive information like transaction or if it's warned) and at the heaviest one may need to turn off and turn on the networking hardware to refresh how the hardware receive networked information.
- At least one manufacturer of highly-reliable computers in the 1980s, Tandem Computers, deliberately exploited this trope. As outlined here, they observed that the vast bulk of software errors seen in actual use (more than 99%) were temporary and would go away when the original operation was retried - this happened automatically and at a very low level in the system. They also did something similar for their hardware, where 80-99% of hardware faults also showed themselves to be temporary and thus, go away when the original operation was retried.
- Possibly inspired by Tandem's example, the Minix 3 operating system does something similar for its system drivers - network, file system, etc. There's at least one report of the network driver being deliberately and repeatedly crashed during a file download. Worst-case slowdown was taking about a third longer than the no-crash case, and the repeated crashes and restarts didn't affect the file being download.
- Some treatments for mental problems such as depression — particularly electroconvulsive therapy and ketamine — have been said to work something like rebooting the brain.
- Defibrillators work this way in reality. Instead of shocking a flatlining heart back to a pulse, defibrillators shock an arrhythmic heart into flatlining, then the operator either waits or uses CPR until the heart starts up again with a (hopefully) normal heartbeat.
- On the flipside, this is actually why Windows 10's Fast Startup option can cause so many problems, like the "90b system fan error" in HP Laptops, mounting problems with disk encryption, USB device errors, dual booting failures, can cause program installations or updates to fail, and even outright USB failure, just to name a few. Fast Startup is actually a form of hibernation where RAM is dumped to a file and stored, so it can be reloaded when the computer turns on: this allows the system to just refresh itself with stored RAM rather than reloading the kernel, drivers, and system state individually. The issue arises from incompatibility issues from devices and drivers which are expecting a proper cold boot and basically don't know what to do with the stored RAM that's loaded up instead, in effect making it the computer version of someone telling you something so random and stupid you are left unable to react. And, ironically, power-cycling your computer with a hard reset or by holding down the power button will fix it as both of these actually force a proper restart rather than loading from a RAM dump. It's why, even in spite of the modest 30 seconds or so it saves you on startup, most computer experts recommend you turn it off.
- This is basically how sleep works for living beings. By significantly reducing metabolic processes and consciousness for a set period of time, the body grows and heals itself while the brain consolidates memories and refuels the inactive parts of itself, things that are much harder to do when awake.
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