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The description of the ‘Shut down’ option in earlier versions of Windows reads:

Ends your session and shuts down Windows so you can safely turn off power.

Why was this shown in Windows 98–XP even with ACPI hardware?

If ACPI hardware was detected, why won't it say "Ends your session, shuts down Windows, and then turns off power/your computer." as in Windows Vista and later? Let's say the ACPI hardware and drivers are enabled and working normally.

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    Missing ACPI drivers? Not enabled? There are many reasons. It's hard to give any useful answer without further details about the machine in question. Automatic power off worked quite well on all Win98 (and later) installations I've ever used/seen.
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 1 '21 at 2:57
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    @Raffzahn the question seems to be about why Win98 shows a specific help text or tooltip text that isn't matching reality if you have ACPI. I'd guess it's simply an oversight. But the whole question seems rather pointless, if we had questions about every wrong or half-wrong message some pre-2000 software produces, we'd probably be the 2nd largest site on stackexchange.
    – TeaRex
    Dec 1 '21 at 12:25
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    Well, ACPI had a lot of flaws in its first years, with partial/wrong implementations, vendor-specific implementations and stability issues. If Windows asked you to shut down and switch off yourself, that's a sure sign of one of such flaws. As there are many, there's no way to give a better answer without more details.
    – tofro
    Dec 1 '21 at 12:47
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    Because when a change is made to long-existing software, not every message on the system gets updated to reflect the new reality? Dec 1 '21 at 13:42
  • I looked around a bit, and I don’t see where in Windows 98 this message is supposed to appear. I can only find it in Millennium, and a slightly different one in XP. Dec 1 '21 at 13:54
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Presumably inertia, of the same kind that had MS-DOS prompt for the current date and time at boot long after RTC with state preserved across power cycles became a standard feature.

Alternatively, the designers might have decided the effort is not worth it. Switching between two different messages would necessitate creating an API that queried the appropriate drivers whether autonomous power-down can be performed. Occasionally though, the API might return a wrong answer, and in fact, in some situations it may be impossible to write; Windows 95 did not support ACPI, but it did support the older Advanced Power Management interface. The mere presence of an APM interface does not, however, mean that the computer is capable of turning itself off; it might be that the system power-off call is one of the things the particular APM implementation available omits. The only way to know for sure that APM power-off works is to actually try to perform it; and risking misleading the user to think they can walk off from the computer and it will shut down itself would be more troublesome than the opposite. It was not uncommon (and still is not) that features were scrapped just because the burden of setting them up was not worth the trouble; Raymond Chen reports that a similar fate fell upon floppy insertion detection.

Finally, ‘turning off power’ need not actually refer to just putting the motherboard and devices connected to it into standby mode, but to disconnecting the computer from the electrical grid entirely, such as when flipping the switch on a power strip. When interpreted that way, the message wasn’t actually misleading at all.

For what it’s worth, the phrasing used in the online help system was more ambiguous, even as early as Windows 95:

Saves any Windows settings that you changed and writes any information that is currently stored in memory to your hard disk. This prepares your computer to be turned off.

The suggestion that power-off is a separate step that demands action on the user’s part is less strong here. Arguably somewhat remarkable, given that back in the days of that version, autonomous power-off was much less widely supported.

Some language editions also used a more ambiguous phrasing, if only inadvertently: my native-language edition of Windows Millennium uses the equivalent of, roughly:

Ends the session and shuts down the Windows system, which allows power to be safely turned off.

Although the primary reason for this is presumably to avoid having the computer address the user as ‘you’, which could be construed as awkward if not rude, especially in languages with T–V distinction.

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    German Windows version politely said "Sie können den Computer jetzt ausschalten"
    – tofro
    Dec 1 '21 at 14:22
  • Yes, and my edition used an impersonal construction instead. It kind of amuses me that this went completely contrary to Microsoft’s vision (or rather, their slavish imitation of Steve Jobs’ vision) to make personal computing seem friendly and approachable. They made a point of doing things like naming icons ‘My Computer’ (that I think even US trade publications sniggered at occasionally) and then localisation teams took it and turned it on its head. This scene comes to mind. Dec 1 '21 at 15:24
  • @user3840170: By T-V, do you mean tu/vous, or something else?
    – supercat
    Dec 14 '21 at 0:10
  • @supercat That’s right. Wikipedia uses this term, so I assume it’s standard, or at least readily understandable to those in the know. (I don’t think it can be that wrong.) Dec 14 '21 at 8:36
  • @user3840170: Anyone who's had even a week's worth of French class would understand the existence of a tu/vous distinction, and I don't know how anyone could understand the phrase "T-V distinction" without knowing that the letters stand for tu and vous. If you'd said "languages like French with a T-V distinction" I would have had no doubt about what was meant, but there are so many languages with so many kinds of distinction it wouldn't be hard to imagine some other language that distinguishes between two other words that mean something else, but start with "T" and "V".
    – supercat
    Dec 14 '21 at 15:51
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Not all PCs in for example Win98 era had ATX power supplies, as many still had AT power supplies. AT power supplies need to be switched off by user with a physical mains switch, they can't be turned off in software.

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