There are several schools of thought when it comes to what to do with a computer at the end of a long work day: shut it down when not in use, let it sit idle, or put it in sleep mode. According to a Panda Security survey, 37 percent of those surveyed turn off their computer every night. Where do you lay in the debate of turning a computer off?Some believe it’s better to shut a computer (desktop or laptop) off daily, while others opt for a weekly shutdown. What are the prevailing thoughts on which might be best for the productivity of the computer, the environment, and the user's sanity? Let’s explore this debate between the followers of the nightly shutdown and those who leave it running.
Computer Power States
Before we take a look at the considerations that should be made before deciding on whether you are in camp “shut down” or camp “put it to sleep,” let's take a brief moment to look at the four power states of a computer and what they mean.
Power State #1 - On
When a computer is “on,” the programs, applications, and main components of the computer are on. The fan is running to keep the components cool but major moveable parts (depending on the type) are in action. Data can be accessed and all files are viewable in a short amount of time. The computer is using full power and drawing from your electricity.
Power State #2 - Sleep
When a computer is in a sleep state it shuts down parts, but not all, of the computer. It does save a snapshot (of sorts) as to where the user was last working. Opening a computer in this state means it might take a few seconds to get back to work, but overall the computer comes right back to life.
Power State #3 - Hibernation
For those who have the option to put their laptop in hibernation mode means that they have put the computer to sleep but at a deeper level and it will take longer to come back on. While there is less power usage in this state, there will also be a few minutes before all files and programs come online when it is rebooted. This option is good if you'll be away from your computer for a short time.
Power State #4 - Shut Down
Computers that have been shut down are fully in “off” mode. This means that it is powered down and unsaved items may be lost. However, during this state, security updates may resume when powered up or turned back on. Shutting down is a good option if you'll be away from your computer for an extended period. There are some tasks that are commonly run at night such as backup, ScanDisk, updates, or a virus scan. Unless you want these tasks to be completed during the work day while you are at your computer you may want to turn off your computer when you go to bed or leave the office.
To Shut Down or Not - Factors To Consider
Ask any technology expert whether you should turn off your computer every day and you will get a variety of answers depending on the age of the computer, type of computer, and overall usage patterns.
Age of the Computer
In terms of considerations about the age of the computer, the experts at Digital Trends online believe that shutting down regularly for older computers may be helpful in extending their lifespan. “The risks are greater for older computers. A traditional hard disk drive, for example, has moving parts, whereas a solid-state drive doesn’t and is far more robust as a result. Mechanical parts will fail eventually, and using them constantly will inevitably wear them down. Computers also heat up when they’re on, and heat is the enemy of all components.”
In terms of usage patterns being a factor in the decision on whether to shut down daily, the frequency of use should be a consideration when turning off or putting to sleep. Geek Squad expert reports that “If you use your computer multiple times per day, it’s best to leave it on. If you use it for a short time — say an hour or two — just once a day, or even less, then turn it off.”
If you are considering how much power your technology may be using over the course of a day, week, month, or year, then you might be surprised to find that the newer computers use a negligible amount of power in sleep mode. Obviously, when a computer is running at full tilt it usurps more power than when in hibernation mode, sleep mode, or turned off, but the amount may not even matter compared to the wear-and-tear turning a computer on and off may take on the computer.
Some computer users believe that powering down at night protects their devices from a power surge that may happen due to a glitch in the electrical grid or a storm. However, a power surge can potentially damage or destroy electrical devices, whether they are on or off. Having the power cord connected to a surge protector can safeguard a computer from an electrical surge.
The Debate in a Nutshell
There are reasons to leave a computer running and an argument could be made to shut it down at regular intervals such as weekly or nightly when not in use.
Reasons to Leave It Running
You plan to access it again fairly soon.
You are using the machine as your server.
You are running background updates, virus scans, or other activities you’d like to occur while you’re away.
You plan to access the computer remotely.
Reasons to Put It To Sleep or Turn It Off
Leaving it on uses a modest amount of electricity and can increase your power bill.
You don’t want to be disturbed by notifications or noise caused by the fan. This can also be resolved by turning off notifications.
Computer performance generally benefits from an occasional reboot.