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Should I Turn My Computer Off at Night?

A turned off laptop.
When a computer is off, it is not susceptible to attacks from the Internet or unauthorized electronic access.
Unplugging computers that are not in use can lower an electric bill.
Some systems benefit from being shut down and rebooted every day.
Turning a desktop computer off at night will save electricity.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Revised By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Whether you should turn off your computer at night is a complicated question, since some computers can benefit from being turned off at night, while others should be left on. Many people choose to turn their computers off to save power, increase security, and reduce wear on the parts. Others choose to leave it on for overnight-running processes, data sharing, and network or security updates. Ultimately, whether or not you turn off your computer at night is an individual decision, and you'll have to balance the pros and cons. If you have an unnetworked home PC, you may find that turning it off and unplugging it provides the most benefits.

Saving Power

One common reason to turn off a computer at night is its use of power. Those that are turned off use less electricity than those that are turned on, even when in idle or sleep mode. Desktop PCs use a lot more energy than laptops, so turning them off can make a more noticeable impact on the price of your electric bill. Though sleep mode does significantly reduce the amount of electricity used, a device in this mode will still use about a third of the power it uses when it is on.

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Security

Turning the computer off at night offers a small, temporary increase in security. When a computer is completely off, it is not susceptible to attacks from the Internet or unauthorized electronic access. Shutting the device off can also protect it from being accessed by onsite intruders simply because accessing a computer that is not already powered on takes longer. If you do decide to turn your computer off at night, then it's important to make sure that any operating system and virus software updates are completed before doing so, since turning it off could disrupt the update and leave you vulnerable to attacks.

Potential Increased Performance

Some operating systems benefit from being shut down and rebooted. For these, turning off the device at night ensures that the system has a fresh start in the morning, which can help eliminate crashes and slowness during the day. Other systems don't benefit from being rebooted though, and the process of restarting the computer and programs used during the day can take up a lot of time.

Hardware Lifespan

Turning a computer off at night can also decrease wear on certain parts of the hardware, like the fan and monitor. Since these parts are generally on when the computer is on, long-term, continuous use can cause them to wear out. Though you can do things to help prevent wear, like turning off the monitor and making sure the computer doesn't get too hot, leaving it on for a long time will still likely cause them to wear out more quickly than if you didn't. A computer that is on also collects dust, so leaving it on at night means you will have to clean it more frequently.

Despite this, turning the machine on and off every day can put stress on other hardware, like the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and hard disk. When the computer is on, these parts tend to get hot and expand, and then cool off and contract once it's turned off. The stress of expanding and contracting every day can eventually damage the hardware.

When to Leave It On

In some cases, turning off the computer at night is not recommended. If it is part of a work network and the administrator makes updates at night, you could cause problems or delays if you turn it off. Computers that house data and hardware needed by others on a network should also stay on. For example, if you access a printer through one computer, you will not want to turn it off unless nobody else is using it. If your computer acts as a communication device, like an answering machine, telephone or fax machine, it should also stay powered on whenever calls might come in.

Some users may turn off the computer because they think it will protect it from power surges, but this is not actually the case. Even when turned off, the machine is still vulnerable as long as it is plugged in. Surge protectors, or unplugging the machine, can help prevent electrical damage.

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Discuss this Article

anon946591
Post 27

But you never did mention the boot up that takes a good amount of energy to get everything going.

anon935094
Post 26

All a lot of rubbish! Electronic components need to be on for longevity! power on and off shortens the life! Leaving it on - even in sleep keeps it going and will lengthen its life expectancy.

PCs do updates, scans, etc. at night if configured correctly. The only reason to power off is for leaving it for a long while (i.e. a week or so).

anon360199
Post 24

Leaving your computer on is the most responsible solution for anyone who uses aftermarket parts/ uses a custom built computer, like if you have several HDDs etc.

A computer, when just idling, draws the same amount of power as a light bulb. That's really not very alarming if you ask me. And leaving it on will keep your internal components nice and warm and therefore in better condition. Hard drives especially suffer from a lot of re-booting.

anon359126
Post 22

Macs in particular need to be shut down as they are still poor on getting rid of heat buildup.

They have, apart from one or two past desktop models relied on massive heatsinks and tiny fans to get rid of the heat through their so called "clever" engineering.

Here some sobering facts: If you own an imac see if you can examine the inside motherboard and check if you have any bulging capacitators. If you have, your mac is living on borrowed time so don't throw any heavy cpu intensive tasks. This is a very common problem and have I had at least two bite the bullet this way through overheat and tiny fans.

The bottom line is, invest in internal fans. Sure, they're noisy, but will allow for optimun air for your system (Better still is liquid cooling if you are a computer geek) and do not rely on heat sinks alone.

Cushion your pc with anti noise pads if you are bothered by the sound (They look like sponges and work in same manner as soundproofing.)

By the way, Macs, like any other computer, are open to viruses, despite what Apple would have you believe.

anon342646
Post 21

So vague. Did anyone describe any solid reason on performance? About saving energy? Go rich with 50c in savings! About cleaning, it's Darwin law: if you try to clean something powered, you should go back.

anon329007
Post 20

True, turning off and on your computer uses up more power in five minutes and causes more stress to the HDD/CPU, and RAM because they have to post process information right from the start along with the motherboard powering itself on.

Don't forget also that video card fans are on a delay of a few seconds before they come on when a computer first powers up from a complete shutdown. The card will heat up to about 37-40+ Celsius and that can cause excessive heat since it's right below the CPU.

Overall, it's up to computer owner. Is the computer one of the first thing you turn on in the morning? And I mean every day. I do, to check specific accounts to read up on the news and it's faster for me to check the weather on it than to wait for the local news broadcast to go through the 30 minute dialog to get to the weather. If so, then yes, its better to let the computer Hibernate/Sleep than to turn it off completely.

I have built four computers in 20 years, and each one of them still works. Not one of them has ever failed on me using nothing but sleep/hibernate. I do turn off the computer once a month and power it back on just to "refresh" the system and to also clean out the dust accumulated inside. Or if I'm going to be gone for a few days.

About 80 percent of most PC problems are from dust, because the average PC user does not know they have to open the computer case and clean out the dust. That does cause damage to the fans and makes them run sluggish and if that happens, excessive heat build up occurs. Most stores sell aerosol sprays that are primarily used on electronics to remove dust. Just remember to read the instructions before use.

anon313173
Post 19

Power saving features (e.g., sleep mode) is designed to be the best of both worlds. Minimizing electricity usage, while preventing the taxing rebooting process. As an A+ Certified Technician (2002), I can tell you that sleep mode is better for your PC than turning it off every night.

Williambl
Post 16

Do battery backups for pc's use power when they're idle? Mine seem very warm all the time.

anon166860
Post 15

Well, that's a complex question. I am a system administrator and most of the time i work remotely. Also i am providing hosting to few web sites. I do never turn off following PC's: 2 X web-servers (duh!), my own ftp, the one that functions as firewall and the other that works as level 1 router. Also i do have an old machine that controls some household systems (AC, heating, lights e.t.c.) I also do have a PC "for fun" and the separate "downloader". basically it means 6 computers running 24/7 others work for, probably, 15 hours daily, and my laptop runs less than other - 5-6 hours a day.

Some people here said something about personal and business security. That has nothing to do with a PC working at night. If you use an expensive fake operating system a.k.a. Microsoft Windows, you can get hacked at any moment, no matter day or night, an you won't be able to stop it.

Another issue with a computer working on 24 hours a day is dust. You should remember to clean it up every 6-8 months (whether you switch it off or not) so, just open it, take a soft brush and clean, and that also relates to laptops. to more advanced pc care, learn how to change terminal plate and oil coolers. And go on, 24 hours uptime won't do any damage to your machine, and you won't have to wait for it to boot up.

anon137598
Post 13

Thanks for telling me that turning it off will save the life.

anon135672
Post 12

Let me ask you this: Do you leave your car on?

do you leave your tv on?

do you leave your stereo on?

Do you leave your lights on?

do you leave your game console on?

Any reason you can come up with to leave your computer on would also apply to one or more of the above items as well.

Turn the computer off. It will save electricity. It will extend the life of the computer. It will protect it from a security standpoint. It will run better when it is turned on for several reasons. Unless it needs to be on, turn it off!

I have been working with computers for over thirty years, and have been a PC tech since the very first pc came out. To date, I have never seen a computer fail faster because it was turned off when not being used. In fact, just the opposite is true. If you leave it on, it will fail sooner. Guaranteed!

anon115816
Post 11

For people who are afraid of lightning storms. Major elements to consider: Make sure that you have the latest standard circuit breaker box, Real Earth connection and lightning discharges system to ground.

Be aware that surge protectors will not protect your system at 100 percent, especially the crap one that you plug from the main to your computer. Ultimately, use a purposely built faraday cage for your computer. If you don’t have money then unplugging your computer from the main is better than nothing.

anon109431
Post 9

So what is the best thing to do? I have been turning my computer off every night and when I go out for seven years now.

anon87649
Post 8

wait, but what if you use a mac and never have to worry about getting viruses?

then what's the point of even rebooting?

anon86911
Post 7

I know absolutely nothing about computers. Your articles are easy to understand. Keep up the good work.

anon37336
Post 5

Good job, averagejoe, for doing a little more research and getting to the truth about overnight power usage vs. the power required to reboot. Rebooting doesn't take significantly more power than simply using the computer. Any statement to the contrary is an urban, suburban and rural myth. Years ago, a computer instructor gave me a list of 10 reasons why you should turn off your computer at night (not the least of which were clearing out the memory and saving large amounts of electricity) but for the life of me I can't seem to find that list. Suffice it to say . . . *turn it off*!

---Herbertificus

Bugsy63
Post 4

I have a HP Visa computer. I keep getting notices to update my Apple software, Safari and Tunes + Quicktime. I don't even know what these programs are or what they do. I thought Apple was a brand of computer, why would I want Apple software?

anon15211
Post 3

This is a very interesting read, but one thing that needs to be considered, is that the start-up process I believe is the most taxing process on the computer. Through my experiences, my computers that are shut down nightly, then booted back up the next day tend to have more hardware problems, or have them sooner, than my computers that are or have been running 24/7.

Now it could just be a coincidence, but it has held true to every computer that I have had.

You could deal with windows crashes by rebooting the computer occasionally. You could deal with hacking by unplugging the internet cord from the computer. Nothing you could do about random power surges though. I do however shut down my computer AND unplug it from the wall during a lightning storm.

anon14267
Post 2

Hi averagejoe, You bring up an excellent point. Evaluating the environmental benefits of turning off the computer are important. Thanks for sharing this information. --Tricia C

averagejoe
Post 1

Don't forget environmental reasons. You shouldn't waste electricity if you don't have to. I heard once that powering off and booting up your computer requires a surge of power that was more than just leaving your computer in sleep mode over night. I did some further research on this, and it seems that that is not true. Turning the computer off over night uses less power than leaving it on or in sleep mode overnight.

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