Should I Leave My Computer On All the Time?

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 30, 2018)

6

When I run into people and they learn that I work with computers, one of the questions I'm often asked is whether it is OK for them to leave their computer on all the time. The answer may seem rather evasive: It depends.

This question, while not one related directly to Windows, has long been one of controversy among seasoned computer users. In general, the answer is individual in nature and depends on the amount of time you use the computer. For example, if you use your computer only a couple of hours each day, then continuous running is a waste of energy and creates undue wear on the equipment. The more hours you use your computer each day, the easier it is to justify leaving it on around the clock.

Computers are designed to operate continuously, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Obviously this puts wear and tear on the computer as heat, movement, dust, and moisture take their toll on the components. Conversely, if you turn your computer off and on more than once each day, you are putting more wear on it than if you had left it on continuously. This is because a computer, just like your automobile, must reach a certain temperature level to operate at peak efficiency. After turning off a computer, components cool and contract. Turning it on again heats the components and makes them expand. All this invisible wear and tear is harder on your system than if you had just left the computer powered on.

This being said, the wear experienced by your computer by turning it on and off is not overwhelming or devastating to your system. The useful life of most office computers is around three years, and the life of most home systems only slightly longer. Even if you turned your computer on and off many times each day, you should still be able to enjoy using your computer well past its average lifespan.

 This tip (10859) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments

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What is two less than 5?

2019-02-21 04:42:36

Peter

As operating systems run they create clutter which is often not properly deleted. This is especially true if any program (App) crashes. The ‘blue screen of death’ can be a symptom.
It is good practice to shut your machine down completely from time to time so that the restart process can remove some of the issues. It is also worth running ‘Disk Clean Up’ to remove all the unwanted temporary files and other rubbish that accumulates if you leave a machine on all the time and do no (or little) housekeeping maintenance.


2019-02-20 23:21:44

PFL

Gordon
Check any filters in the cooling air and fan components. Overheating can cause exactly the symptoms you describe.
Low cooling air volume due to a dirty filter or heavily dust covered fan blades is subtle and easily overlooked; everything seems normal except for the puzzling slow onset problems.
PFL


2019-02-19 16:48:18

Gordon Schochet

Many thanks, as usual, for the excellent and clarifying tip, but...

I have found with my Win-7 home / home-office computer -- which is considerably more than 3 years old -- that at the end of my work day (during which it remains on unless I will be away for more than an 30 minutes (in which case, I put it to sleep [see #2 below] manually because the power settings configuration that is SUPPOSED to induce sleep after 25 minutes has ceased to be reliable, meaning that the machine remains on, about which see # 1 below)

(1) leaving it on has caused problems as long as I have had it: sometimes it dies the blue window of death death; sometimes it just freezes; and sometimes it just reboots itself -- all of which usually result in check disk and memory-dump and/or suggestion that I reboot in safe mode; and

(2) putting it to sleep and then turning off the power-strip / surge-protector is safer, BUT after a few such snoozes, everything works slower and sometimes not at all, in which case I have to reboot.

I presume that some among your readers / followers have (had) similar problems and that they -- OR YOU -- may have suggestions (other than the obvious "replace your computer" or, somewhat more minimally, upgrade to WIN-10.


2018-07-30 09:53:30

Peter

I completely agree with comments regarding the electrical and mechanical side of things. However, there is another important consideration which is concerned with the way software in general and specifically operating systems work. Windows allocates resources to the software (programs, apps, or whatever you choose to call them). In a perfect world when the software finished it’s job the resources are released. This does not always happen, software can hang, malfunction, leave files open and resources allocated (but not used). Windows is then left if a muddle and operates at less than peak efficiency. Worst case you get a blue screen crash.

To avoid the above it is good practice to shut down and restart once a day; because this is the best way to prevent an accumulation of issues.


2018-07-30 09:41:45

Edju

What's missing in the discussion about leaving the computer on continuously is the standby and sleep mode options as a consideration.


2018-07-30 09:37:40

Henry Noble

When modern computers and monitors go into sleep mode, they draw so little power that leaving them on continually makes much more sense than it did a few years ago. And, if you return to the computer frequently during the day, the time saved by the almost-instant return from sleep adds up.


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