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3 Questions on Reboots, Apps, and WiFi

This week, I'm going to answer three awesome questions that have been sent in to me via Facebook and email: Why does a reboot work? Why does closing apps save battery? And, why does a computer automatically connect to certain WiFi connections?

By
Eric Escobar,
July 9, 2015
Episode #180

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This week, I’m going to answer three awesome questions that have been sent in to me via Facebook and email.

1.) Why does rebooting work to fix computer problems?

This question was brought to me by listener Michelle, and it’s a pretty interesting one. A lot of people know that if your computer is acting strange, if your router stops working, or if your phone is kind of glitchy, then you should restart it. About 90% of the time, a simple reboot is all that your system needs.

The question, though, is why does this work? Why does simply pulling the power cord fix your computer’s issues, and why does it seem to work for so many different types of electronics?

Well, the reason has mostly to do with wiping the memory of the device that is running. If you’ve listened to my episode on the anatomy of a computer then you would know that RAM or computer memory holds programs and system processes that are currently in use. After a while of being on or with a lot of programs running, this memory can get packed full of stuff, or just get into a bunch of strange states.

Years and years ago, this was be more of an issue because programs were not designed as well to work with other programs, and some programs didn’t use memory efficiently which would gobble up a ton of resources.

When you shutdown, or reboot, this memory of processes and programs gets erased and your computer gets a fresh start (sort of like waking up from a good night’s sleep). Often times, this will fix whatever minor issue was happening.

The same goes for most other devices that use RAM (which stands for random access memory, in case you were curious). When they are shut off, their RAM is cleared generally fixing whatever weird state they were in. If you’ve ever had to unplug a device for more than 10 seconds when rebooting or shutting off your device, this has to do with capacitors.

Capacitors are like tiny little batteries inside your electronic device. They do a ton of different things, but when you unplug your device they need a short amount of time to discharge completely so your device is truly off. No Frankenstein devices for us!

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