Should I Leave My Computer On All the Time?

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 25, 2015)

10

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 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 and 8.

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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What is three minus 2?

2015-05-27 00:49:09

Shreepad S M Gandhi

@Shanker.K.Vee

Agree with you about energy costs being one of the major reasons to switch off devices when not in use. And why should any nation waste energy at all, whether it is costly or cheap?

I always shut down my laptop after use. Though the gap is less than 2 hours between 2 successive sessions. And I have never experienced any functional problems with my laptop.

Well. Thanks for all the inputs.


2015-05-26 12:44:48

MWilson

An important consideration that is frequently overlooked in this analysis is your backup scheduling.

Most people backup (or run virus scans) overnight when they aren't using their computer.

So if you turn it off to save energy you may be also preventing or delaying that backup or virus run -- which could be far more expensive than any energy savings (or computer longevity) you may realize.

You do backup don't you? :)


2015-05-26 01:26:14

Shanker.K.Vee.

Hi Allen,

This discussion brings out an old argument on whether it is desirable to switch off lights and fans. The results of studies are not conclusive. It is evasive as usual, 'It depends'.

My conclusion is that if you're going to give a long gap, say a few hours before restart, then it is better to switch off - be it computers or any electrical device for that matter. Recognize that idling an equipment consumes energy like any automobile. If you switch of a TV through a remote, your TV is said to consume approximately 10% energy. So, there is a joke that you spend more on idling than using devices.

Additionally, here in India, power charges are costly. So, we switch off when we don't use.


2015-05-26 01:24:09

Carolyn

I was told if I left my computer on overnight, I was asking for a hacker to be able to get into my system. True?


2015-05-25 17:39:24

Hackie

What about security. Shouldn't one turn the computer off when out, or overnight?
And have a password to reboot?


2015-05-25 10:37:33

frenchlass

Does a reboot not count as "leaving it on", since all WINDOWS updates require a reboot?


2015-05-25 08:47:32

awyatt

Shreepad: Yes, that is correct.

-Allen


2015-05-25 08:23:19

hen

Modern computers and monitors use very little energy when allowed to go into sleep mode.

I find the rapid re-start well worth the tiny increase in my electric bill.


2015-05-25 07:40:13

Jacques

I own a Dell Dimension 8200 since 2002 with Windows XP. I leave it on 24 hours a day most of the time and it runs perfectly. I only change the hard disk drive once. Slow on the Internet though, and can,t upgrade to more than 2Gs. That,s why I use a 2014 Lenovo lap top with Windows 7 and leave it on all day. So much so for wear and tear and 3-4 years usage. Thks for the tip.


2015-05-25 06:24:50

Shreepad S M Gandhi

Allen, when you say "The useful life of most office computers is around three years, and the life of most home systems only slightly longer." do you mean that it is better to discard the device (laptop/desktop whatever) and get a new one (of course with properly migrating one's data) after three years in a normal case?


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