Should You Leave Your Computer On or Off When Not In Use?

It’s a common question we’ve all undoubtedly at some point wondered. Maybe you’ve heard arguments for both cases and still find yourself unclear on what is best for your computer. Although the question may sound like it would have a simple answer, I’m afraid it’s not that cut and dry. Does it hurt the computer more to leave it on all the time or should you be turning it off every night?

Essentially, the answer depends on how you use your computer and how often. Let’s start by looking at why some people say to leave your computer on all the time.

• It’s quick and convenient. You don’t have to wait for it to boot up.
• Turning a computer on and off several times a day can shorten the computer’s lifespan. Each time you boot up your computer, a small surge of power spins everything up, and with constant use, its mechanical components will inevitably wear down.
• Software updates, virus scans, and backups can regularly occur overnight when you’re not using the computer. Those processes can slow down the performance of a computer so it’s best to schedule those when you don’t need to use it.
• You may need the computer to stay on regularly because you use it as a server for remote connection.

Now let’s review the other side of the coin: Why you shouldn’t leave your computer on all the time.

• Wastes power and can slightly increase your electricity bill.
• Less noisy. If you find the fan or hard drive distracting, you may be more comfortable with the computer turned off because it’s simply quieter.
• Wears down the computer and its components, most of which are rated with a limited life cycle.
• Produces heat which is one of the biggest factors in reducing the life of hardware.
• When not turned on, your computer is protected from power surges. * To really be protected from power surges, make sure the computer is plugged into a UPS, a universal power supply which is a battery backed up surge protector.
• Computers benefit from the occasional reboot. It used to be the norm to regularly reboot, but modern operating systems can handle multiple processes running at the same time a lot better than they used to. However, as the first step in most troubleshooting issues, those little glitches and errors that sometimes creep up can usually be fixed by a quick reboot.

To clarify, the amount of energy being used when a computer is left on all the time is a pretty small amount, and is heavily dependent on whether the computer is actively being used or sleeping. When a computer is put in sleep mode, its energy consumption drops dramatically. When not in use, it’s highly advisable to let the monitor turn off or time-out. Hard drives and batteries will fail eventually too, but by allowing them to sleep and spin down when not being used will also extend their lifecycle.

Sleep vs. Hibernate

People often wonder what the difference between the sleep and hibernation mode is. When you put your computer to sleep, it gets put into a low power state without actually being turned off. In hibernate, your computer stops using power altogether until you’re ready to use it again. This is very similar to the jarring effects of turning a computer on and off. Always check your sleep settings to ensure that you have them set up to save power by defaulting after so many minutes of being idle.

So where does that leave us?

All in all, the answer depends on how you use your computer and what you need it to do.

If you use your computer more than once a day, it’s probably best to leave it on all day.

If you use it in the morning and at night, it’s also just fine to leave it on overnight.

If you find that you only use your computer for a couple hours just one time daily, that situation most likely warrants the computer to be powered down completely when not in use.

If you are going away for a couple days, then obviously turning it off makes sense, but if you are like so many these days and need it to be on and ready at all times, then you can rest assured that there is very little risk for you to leave it on as long as you need it.

Just remember the main tips for keeping it healthy: Occasionally reboot, use a UPS or surge protector, enable the sleep settings to take effect when idle, and keep it clean. Keeping it clean means both getting rid of dust and uninstalling old software and cleaning up old files.

You can learn more about how to really keep your computer safe and secure at our next Executive Business Luncheon on Cybersecurity at The Fish House in Pensacola on August 18th. Sponsored by TrendMicro and BIS. RSVP by calling 251-410-7601 or registering on our website.

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