Should You Leave Your Computer On Or Turn Your Computer Off

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At the end of the workday, you have an important decision to make: Should you turn your computer off or leave your computer on?
Each option has its own set of pros and cons, and there are a number of variables that can affect the answer.
Are you confident that you’re making the right decision for your computer?

First off, the answer to this question is dependent upon how frequently the machine is used. For the sake of this post, let’s look at the computer needs of the average worker who uses their PC for the the typical weekday 9-to-5 grind.
We also need to address the age-old notion that turning your equipment on and off causes physical harm to the equipment. Back when computers were first making their modern workplace debut there was a very real concern about power surges. Turning it off and on really was bad for your machine, but since the early 90’s this hasn’t been a problem!

Power consumption is a second thing to consider. Are you the kind of person who goes through the house turning lights off before you leave just to make sure you’re not burning through electricity? Well, you have some options. Let’s review them:

  1. Shutting down.
    Powering off your machine (through your software, not a forceful hard reset via power button) means closing all programs and shutting off the operating system completely. There’s virtually no power used when it’s off. When you want to get things up and running, though, you need to go through the whole booting-up process and your hardware and software will all need time to initialize and start.
  2. Sleep mode.
    This is when you put your computer into a “paused” low-power status where the memory stays in tact for the session, but the other parts of your machine are allowed to power down. When you start things back up again when you’ve had it in sleep mode, it won’t take long to get going and things will be right where you left them, including your open documents and any programs you were running at the time that you put the machine “to sleep”.
  3. Hibernation mode.
    Instead of hitting the pause button and preserving the memory in the spot where you stop things, the memory gets dumped into a file and when you boot pack up the machine will have to load the previous state from the hard drive back into memory to get to where you were. Hibernating uses less power than sleep mode will, but it still uses about the same amount of power as when your computer is booting up anew from shutdown state. So, that’s the advantage if you’re looking to save some battery but aren’t concerned about the extra seconds or minutes to get back going again when you get back to your computer.

There is actually one more mode, “Hybrid”, which is intended for desktop machines primarily. This is where your machine’s state (including memory) gets saved to hard disk similarly to hibernate, except there’s a little power still provided to the memory so the computer wakes up quicker.

If you’re looking to leave it on in order to get a jump start on your workday, then put your PC in sleep mode before leaving the office instead of turning it off. The amount of energy used will be less than a light bulb left on.

The fact is that if you leave your computer on at all times you’re still using less than $20 worth of electricity per year in majority of cases. So, if you’re worried about the bill… that isn’t much of an issue. Frankly, you’re better off being concerned with the functionality of your cooling system for the components that can get pretty hot inside of your device.

What about if you live somewhere that’s particularly prone to blackouts or other natural disaster scenarios? As with the rest of these cases – it depends.
Before we go any further it is important to note that regardless of what you decide to do, it is important to be plugged into a surge protector to guard your device against spikes that could fry its insides!

If you’re worried about running out of battery power in the case of a power outage, put an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) battery backup in place to give you some wiggle room before you need to worry about finding a place with power to plug in again.
If you’re worried about multiple surges or you know you will need your computer and you can’t rely on a UPS to ensure you’re powered up for enough time, make sure that you shut down your computer properly at the end of the day and that you unplug the device as well. This ensures that you’ll have no battery loss when not in use, and you’ll be protected from possible power surges during that time. Shutting things down will help you in the case of some sudden power outage, but it won’t prevent power surge damage. In those cases, it doesn’t matter whether the thing is turned on or off.

One other thing that you might not be considering in your decision as to whether to leave your computer on is whether your habits are compatible with your computer’s maintenance schedule.
When do your virus and malware scans run?
When does your software get updated?
If you’re a managed technology services client of ours, for instance, we occasionally ask that you keep your computers powered on so we can run scans, apply patches and updates, and more. We can’t do that job when things are all turned off.

Should you leave your computer on or shut it down at the end of each day?
Not sure when or how your business machines stay updated and patched? Unsure about your staff’s power cycling habits?
This is a friendly reminder to check in about these sorts of details and ensure that your staff and systems work in line with your operational plan for your business.


Get in touch with us for a full evaluation of your business technologies, and we’ll help you to align your practices with your operational needs and goals.

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