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The fastest way to close all running programs in Windows

With just a handful of keystrokes you can shut down all active apps on your system via Task Manager's Programs tab. Plus: power off your PC by pressing three keys.

Need to shut down your PC in a hurry? Simple. Here are two handy keyboard shortcuts to save you time and mousing.

Close all open programs
A little-known set of keystrokes will shut down all active programs at once in no time.

Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and then Alt-T to open Task Manager's Applications tab. Press the down arrow, and then Shift-down arrow to select all the programs listed in the window. When they're all selected, press Alt-E, then Alt-F, and finally x to close Task Manager.

For those of you keeping score at home, that's seven steps that can be accomplished in less than 10 seconds.

If you're concerned about having to remember these or other shortcut keys, press the Alt key to show the underline beneath the letter to press to activate each option.

There's more than one way to turn off your PC
At the end of a long workday your last official act may be to press the power button on your PC to turn it off. Alternatively, you can click Start > Shut down.

But there's a way to power off your system without taking your hands off the keyboard: in Windows 7, press the Windows key, then the right-arrow key, and then Enter; in Vista, press the Windows key, then the right arrow three times, and then u; in XP, press the Windows key and then u twice.

Windows will prompt you to save any files that require it before closing the host app, just as it does when you press the power button or click "Shut down" on the Start menu (which is an odd place for a "Shut down" button, if you ask me).

Equal time for Mac users: open the shutdown dialog by pressing Control-Eject; activate sleep mode by pressing Option-Command-Eject; close all applications and restart the machine by pressing Control-Command-Eject (you'll be prompted to save changes to open documents); close all applications and shut down by pressing Control Option-Command-Eject (once again, you'll be prompted to save changes to open documents).

Keep in mind that some organizations want you to leave your PC running because updates and backups may be scheduled for the middle of the night. You can set the power button to put your system in hibernate or standby mode via Windows' Power Options.

To open Power Options, press the Windows key, type "power options," and press Enter. Click "Choose what the power buttons do" in the left pane, click the menu next to "When I press the power button" and make your selection: Shut down, Hibernate, Sleep, or Do nothing.

Windows 7 Power Options dialog
Windows 7's Power Options dialog lets you change the power button's action from the default "Shut down" to either "Hibernate," "Sleep," or "Do nothing." screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

(If Windows seems to take forever to turn off your PC, check out my post from March 2008 titled "Shut down Windows in an instant.")