I’ve Always Wanted To Know:
Is It Ok To Leave My Computer On?
Each industry has its own “depends on who you ask” question, and one of the most common in the PC industry is “Should you turn off your computer when you’re not using it?” The question is generally difficult to have a consensus on because it depends on the type of computer, the needs of the user and how your system is setup to run maintenance and patching.
Arguments for Leaving Your Computer On
Leaving your computer on will allow regularly scheduled patches and updates to happen. Virus scans and defragments can also be scheduled to be done late at night when your computer is not in use. Many companies prefer computer systems be kept on so IT departments can schedule these tasks without interrupting users during the workday.
Leaving your computer on also allows you to stop/start tasks without having to start the machine, wait for the operating system to load and go back into the program you were using. You can also use the sleep functionality, which limits the power usage. The computer keeps the system memory powered and lets you resume from where you last were very quickly.
Arguments for turning your computer off.
Wear and tear on your computer, especially items which move or spin (such as the hard drive or fans), is based on the number of hours they are on. If your computer is sitting idle at 4 AM, the fans are still spinning and counting down the hours of usable life they have left.
Power usage goes down when a computer is idle, but there is still a large power draw. If your computer is in use for 4 hours a day and idle for 20 hours you could be wasting thousands of watts of power per month.
Unattended software updates late at night can be problematic, as you may sit down expecting a working computer only to find something went horribly wrong at 3 AM and you needed to get work done urgently.
Which argument is right?
In this writer’s opinion, I’d rather save the energy and wear/tear and shut down my computer. Depending on the operating system, you may experience slowdowns and memory problems the longer the computer is on due to memory leaks or files not correctly closed, but most modern operating systems can handle being left on for a long time. Mac based computers are far more reliable, and can be left on weeks at a time in most situations. For a work computer I leave on all the time I regularly reboot it once a week to get a fresh start and make sure any updates that require rebooting are performed.
P.S. If you’re wondering if this advice holds true for phones, it depends on the applications you run and the type of phone. Apple iOS phones are coded in such a way to prevent applications from causing operating system problems that need a reboot to fix. Many android phones, due to the open nature of the applications, can benefit from a regular reboot about once a week.
Do you have a general technology or electronics question you always wanted to know like “How does a Microwave work?” or “Why do LED’s last so long?” Write me at Tim@WorldStart.com  and your question may be answered in an upcoming “I Always Wanted To Know.” For specific computer support questions ask our writers by clicking here .