Leave the Computer On or Turn it Off Every Night ???

This is a question that I am often asked, as to whether it is better to turn the computer off every night or just leave it on all the time. There are arguments for both cases and I will present them here so that the folks can make an intelligent decision.

First let’s talk about wear and tear on the computer and the parts inside. If this is the primary concern (someone wants this computer to last as long as possible), then it is better for the computer to leave it on most all of the time. The wear and tear that happens on the electronic components inside occurs mostly when the machine is first powered on. The components go from being unpowered to being fully powered almost instantly, and this is where the wear and tear occurs. If a computer is turned off every night and then powered back on every morning, then it will typically not last as long as a computer that is left on most of the time.

The second concern of course is power usage and the environment. It will obviously use more than twice the electrical power to leave the machine on most of the time. Now most machines have power save features and I will get into how that changes things in a minute here, but if power usage (as opposed to computer longevity) is the main concern, then the machine should be turned off when not in use. Especially in the case of desktop computers the difference in usage on the electric bill is noticeable.

So it generally comes down to higher electric bill versus having to replace the computer sooner.

Now let’s talk about power save features. Modern computers and operating systems have built in features that can automatically power down parts of the computer after they are not used for a certain amount of time. For instance they might un-power the monitor after 20 minutes of inactivity. The computer might “go to sleep” or “hibernate” after a certain time that it is inactive. In some senses this is the best of both worlds because it does save power and the wear and tear to bring it out of sleep mode or hibernation is not as much as turning it on from being completely off.

However just a warning here. I have noticed in my years of doing this that the circuitry that controls coming out of sleep mode seems to often be the first circuitry that fails on a failing motherboard. I have seen it fail and then the rest of the motherboard and the computer run fine for several years. So if the computer has any issues whatsoever coming out of sleep mode or hibernation then all that I can recommend is to disable that feature. Also it is possible that by the time one counts the number of times that the computer goes to sleep and awakes in a single day there could actually be more wear and tear on components than if it was just turned on once each morning and then just left on for the day.

So the issue is not as simple as I would have hoped to explain. My recommendation is to go with your primary concern. If your primary concern is the power usage and/or the environment then turn it off all the time when not in use of set short time frames for it powering down the monitor and it going to sleep. If your concern is more the longevity of the computer then just leave it on all the time.

The same is true for Laptop computers as desktops with the one difference that they use much less power to start with. Leaving a Laptop computer plugged in and on all day does not drain near the power that a desktop computer does, but power can still be saved when it is turned off or hibernated. Running on battery does not make much difference here because the eventual recharge of that battery will draw more power; so not much power (if any) will be saved by trying to run on battery as much as possible. Also most batteries will recharge about 500 times and then they need replacing, and they are pretty expensive to replace.

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