Mystery explained: Why you have to reboot Windows so often

You know the drill: you've been using your Windows computer for a while when things start to go wrong. Your programs slow down, or you start getting inexplicable error messages.

You know the drill: you've been using your Windows computer for a while when things start to go wrong. Your programs slow down, or you start getting inexplicable error messages. Your cursor lags, or when you move windows around they leave droppings on the screen. It's that time again. Time to reboot.

Ever wonder why that happens? The answer may have been revealed in a 2003 memo from Bill Gates, who retired from Microsoft on Friday.

In the memo, Bill plays the part of the clueless user as he tries to download a program from the Microsoft web site. He has a hard time of it, finding all sorts of usability problems. At one point, he writes (emphasis mine):

Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I do that? I reboot every night -- why should I reboot at that time?

Since Bill G rebooted his machine every night (instead of being forced to reboot when the problems mount up), he didn't see those instability and slowdown issues first hand. If he had, he would have fired off another memo. And because Bill never ran into them, maybe that's why they didn't get fixed. This could explain a lot about why we're stuck rebooting Windows so often.

You can bet that after Bill sent his note, there was a lot of activity to address the web site and install issues that he pointed out. I know from experience that having an executive actually try to sit down and use your software is highly motivational.

Without that "C-level QA", the folks at the top may have a distorted view of how your products are performing. And, especially in a big company, everybody else takes their cues from those leaders. Do the executives at your organization get involved and use their influence like this? And are they getting the full experience that your customers are getting?

In his parting speech, Bill mentioned the memo, adding:

What do you think I do all day? Sending an e-mail like that, that is my job. That's what it's all about. We're here to make things better.

Exactly right. I only wish he had experienced more of our pain.

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