“Ctrl+Alt+Del” grows up!

by | Nov 5, 2022

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I know I’ve done several ‘techie’ articles recently, and I thought this was going to be another Quick Win ([QW]) post. But … when I sat down to quickly tell you about all the ‘extra’ stuff we can do now with the (dreaded) “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” option on our PCs, I needed clarification on one item.

While searching for information, I came across an offering from Digital Citizen. I have a quick overview and a link to Digital’s entire article.

So, a bit more robust than planned, but hey! now we all have the info!


What’s the deal with these keys?

When the earth was still cooling PC computer-wise, our machines often locked up. We had to restart them, losing work we hadn’t saved. Enter the super-secret 😎 code to do that: hold down three keys simultaneously. Yep, you guessed it: the control [Ctrl], alternate [Alt], and delete keys [DEL] on some computers.

Sadly, we PC users still need the Ctrl+Alt+Delete option periodically.

Buuuut, it’s more helpful, now

Remember my post about a fussy PDF file that locked up my computer? I demonstrated how I moved on with my day (without dumping any unsaved work) by using the Ctrl+Alt+Delete option. Here’s how that happened

Using your PC’s “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” menu

When we use Ctrl+Alt+Delete nowadays, our computer doesn’t automatically reboot. We’re sent to an options menu. Codrut Neagu explains the following four items at Digital Citizen.

Here is a partial copy of Codrut’s article
Lock – Clicking or tapping on this option locks your Windows PC so that no other users can access your account while you’re away. When you want to get back to work, you have to unlock your PC using any of the sign-in methods you’ve previously configured, like Windows Hello Face, PIN, or plain-old password.
Switch user – This option lets you sign in to your Windows computer or device using another user account. Switching to a new user doesn’t close any apps or windows open by the currently logged-in user account. It only puts them in a sort of sleep state so that you can quickly switch back and forth between the different Windows user accounts.
Sign out – Choosing this option signs you out of your user account, closing all programs and windows you might have open, so make sure you first save your work.
Task Manager – Clicking or tapping on Task Manager opens the Windows tool bearing the same name. Task Manager is very useful when you need to manage how apps, processes, and services run on your Windows PC.
Change a password – This option is shown only if you’re using an offline local account on your Windows PC. Clicking or tapping on it allows you to change your user’s password, but only if you know the old one too, so you can’t use it to reset a forgotten password.


Check out the full article

What is Ctrl Alt Delete? What does Ctrl Alt Del do? – Digital Citizen


Author Codrut Neagu provides more detail. For example:

      • Basics on the systems where Ctrl+Alt+Delete is used
      • Using these keys during remote desktop sessions
      • Reasons why using the keys might not work for you

Please support Codrut and the Digital Citizen team by commenting on their article. 

I’d appreciate your input here as well, but Digital comes first. 

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  1. Norman Phelps

    Hi Kathie. I’ve used the ctrl alt del keys since the time I received my 20MB (two 10MB drives) computer. Yeah, I’d NEVER use all of that storage. You and the Digital Citizen have done a great job updating us on the latest iteration of the ctrl alt del saga. Thanks so much for all your efforts and sharing!

    • Kathie York


      I was LOL with the “Yeah, I’d NEVER use all of that storage.” comment, ’cause I’ve been there.
      There’s about a bazillion more MB of RAM on my current machine than the MB I had on my first hard drive!

      The article – and link – for Digital Citizen are keepers. I plan to keep up with them.

      Thanks for stopping by, and good to hear from you, K.


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