You may be asking yourself; do I keep my computer on all the time, or do I shut it down when it is not in use? This is a common question that we are asked in the store. A lot of people think they should always turn their computer off when it is not in use. The short answer really comes down to how you use the device. You can leave your computer on all of the time but there are some caveats in doing so; just as there are caveats in turning it off. In this article, we will list out some of the arguments for both cases.

Potential threats to your computer

Since your computers are machines, they can wear over time. The processor, RAM, and graphics card have no moving parts but will experience aging due to component temperature. Another threat to these components is the electrical current. Experiencing a power surge or power drop can also stress these components. These events can occur during thunderstorms or when other devices are plugged in that use a lot of power like a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner.

There are also mechanical components that can experience wear over the life of the machine. Computers that have mechanical drives need to spin a magnetic platter (this stores all the information) to allow the computer to operate. These disks can spin 5,400 to 7,200 times per minute. Like a tire on a car, over time due to the frequency of motion, they can wear down. If your computer is on all the time that disk is constantly spinning, inevitably wearing it down.

Computer screens can also suffer from being on all the time. They can also be at risk for power fluctuations like the rest of the computer. It is estimated that most LCD monitors are rated for 30,000 to 60,000 hours of use. Monitor failure is rare but is another potential risk when using a computer.

Why leave it on?

  • You won’t have to wait for startup (if you have a solid-state drive, startup time will be reduced).
  • Activities can run in the background. Updates can run when you are not actively using it, preventing delays. Anti-virus programs can also run while you’re not using the computer.
  • If you have files on your computer, you can remotely access them.

Why turn it off?

  • You will see a slight boost in speed with an occasional reboot.
  • No notification pop ups when not using the device. Avoids annoying notification sounds.
  • It can waste electricity and cause a slightly higher bill.

If You Leave It On All The Time is Sleep Mode or Hibernation Better?

Putting your computer into sleep mode will put it into a low power usage mode. It will reduce the power given to the processor and RAM. It will also lower the speeds on drives connected to the device. Any applications that are open on the computer will be put into a standby state.

Hibernation mode does much of the same. Hibernation will copy the computers state, any open applications or windows, to the hard drive, then it will power down the computer. When you turn it back on it will restore the computer to the way it was when it was last used.

Final Verdict?

It really comes down to how you intend on using the machine. There are benefits to powering it down, especially when the computer is new, but as it ages the constant starting and stopping may be an issue. If you want to leave it on all the time, make sure you take some steps to protect it. Make sure you have a surge protector or even better, a battery back up. This is a surge protector with a battery built in so if you lose power you will be able to safely power down the computer. That said, unplugging a device during a severe thunderstorm is the best way to protect your computer from electrical interruptions.

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