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I installed Debian Squeeze from the live DVD. Going to System->Shutdown->Restart does not shutdown the computer in the usual way where the BIOS screen is seen before login. Instead it simply restarts without going through shutdown and BIOS. Why is that so? Can we configure restart behaviour to switch between these two ways of restarting? I have not experienced this on other Linux distributions or Windows.

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Sounds like a feature of kexec. If you don't like it, try coldreboot (from kexec-tools) or set LOAD_KEXEC=false in /etc/default/kexec (as mentioned here). You could proably also just remove the packagekexec-tools

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