Tip of the Day Blog
    The Web
« AltaVista's Babel Fish Translation Service | Main | Online PDF Conversion »

Should Computers be Turned Off at Night?


Should Computers be Turned Off at Night?

Ken Colburn of Data Doctors answers:

Q: I have heard several different answers to this question and I don't know what to believe. Is it better to leave my computer running or shut it off?

A: The debate concerning this question has been raging since the beginning of (computer) time. The answer has more to do with the type of computer you use, your usage patterns and your concern for your power bill.

Manufacturers of specific computer components such as hard drives and power supplies have used MTBF ratings (Mean Time Between Failure) to express the life cycle of their products. Power supplies have published ratings such as 50,000 hours (just under 6 years) and hard drive ratings have been 300,000 hour (just over 34 years) or higher.

Remember, millions of computers are running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Virtually every network server from the small business to the largest airline to every government agency is running constantly and they use the same basic components as the average user. But just because we know that the components are capable of running all of the time does not mean they should.

Laptops, for instance, have a higher likelihood of heat related problems because they have very limited ventilation systems. In addition to the obvious battery power savings, shutting them down when they are not being used (for long stretches of time) will allow them to run cooler and generally more efficiently.

If you use your computer constantly throughout the day, leaving it on during the day and turning it off at night makes perfect sense. If you only use it to check your e-mail once in a while, turn it on when you need it and turn it off when you don't.

If you are like me and have a high-speed cable modem, get tons of e-mail, and hate to wait for Windows to boot, leaving your computer on all the time will probably increase your quality of life.

If saving electricity is your concern, then the monitor is your biggest enemy. Your display screen is the biggest single power consumer, so you can simply turn it off whenever you are not using the computer, but leave the computer itself on so you don't have to wait as long when you want to use it.

A basic metering of new computers at Iowa State University found that the average computer running 'all the time' cost about $65 per year. If you were to shut your monitor off on nights and weekends but leave the computer running, the cost would drop to about $40 per year. If you turn everything off at night and on weekends, the cost would drop to about $21 per year.

Power-saving systems are now a part of virtually every computer and operating system, which typically will put your computer and monitor in 'sleep mode', which in turn saves electricity. As you can see, there is no one answer for this question, but there are a few absolutes for those that plan to keep their computers running all the time.

The first is to invest in a good surge protector with a UL 1449 rating or, better yet, a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) since the likelihood of a power related issue increases with the length of time that your computer is running.

The second is to always shut down and unplug your computer during an electrical storm. There is no way for your computer to get hit if it is not plugged in - and it's cheap protection!

EmailEmail Article to Friend