Is It Better To Turn Your Computer Off Or Leave It On

The age old question… Is it better to leave my computer on 24/7 or shut it down when I’m not using it?


This is one of those questions where there is no single right answer. In other words, it depends on how you use your computer.


There are at least three situations that may compel you to leave your computer on 24 hours a day:


•You are on a network, and the network administrators back up files and/or upgrade software over the network at night. If that is the case, and you want your machine backed up or upgraded, then you need to leave it on all the time.


•You’re using your machine as some sort of server. For example, if your machine acts as a file server, print server, Web server, etc., on a LAN (local area network) or the Internet, then you need to leave it on all the time.


•If you’re running something like SETI@home and you want to produce as many result sets as possible, you need to leave your machine on all the time. If you don’t know what SETI is, take a look at this website:


If you do not fall into any of these categories, then you have a choice about whether or not to leave your machine turned on.


One reason you might want to turn it off is economic. A typical PC consumes something like 300 watts. Let’s assume that you use your PC for four hours every day, so the other 20 hours it is on would be wasted energy. Those 20 hours represent about 60 cents a day which adds up to $219 per year.


It’s also possible to use the energy-saving features built into today’s computer systems and cut that figure in half. For example, you can configure the monitor and hard disk to power down automatically when not in use although you’ll still be wasting $100 per year.


The most common argument for leaving your computer on all the time is that turning it on and off somehow stresses the computer’s components. For example, when the CPU chip is running, it can get quite hot, and when you turn the machine off it cools back down. The expansion and contraction from the heat probably has some effect on the solder joints holding the chip in place, and on the micro-fine details on the chip itself. But here are three ways to look at that:


•If it were a significant problem, then computer systems would be failing all the time. The fact is, hardware is very reliable (software is a whole different story, and there is a lot to be said for rebooting every day).


•I don’t know a single person who leaves their TV on 24 hours a day. TVs contain many of the same electronic components that computers do – some of them even have hard drives now. In the grand scheme of all things electronic, TVs certainly have no problems being cycled on and off.


•Most computer resellers will gladly sell you a three-year full-replacement warrantee for about $150. If you’re worried about it, spend some of the money you’re saving by turning your machine off and buy a service contract. Over three years, you’ll still come out way ahead!

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