Should I Turn My Computer Off at Night?

A question came up that I get every once and a while: should I turn off my PC when I’m not using it?

Lots of people leave their computers on so they don’t have to waste time booting up to do something.  But you have to figure in that your computer is sitting there idle probably 50% or even 75% of the day.  During that time it’s using power for no real purpose, and possibly acting like a zombie spewing out spam email because someone infected it and you don’t know it.  Don’t laugh – that last scenario is remarkably common.

There are good reasons to shut down your computer.  One important one is that many Windows updates require a restart to install.   Some antivirus programs and disk check programs also require a restart from time to time so that they can check and delete files that are in use when Windows is up and running.  Some viruses embed themselves in or mimic required files and can only be removed when the computer boots up, before those Windows files are in use.

A second, and often overlooked one, is heat.  If your computer is running, its components are generating heat.  Over time and use dust accumulates and decreases the ability of fans and heatsinks to dissipate heat from vital components like the CPU and northbridge on the motherboard.  Heat is the enemy of all electronics and will lead to premature failure and poor performance.  Powering off allows components to cool down.  A good shot of canned air to dusty parts from time to time will help tremendously as well.

Third, if you have an “always-on” Internet connection (DSL, FiOS, cable) realize that hackers are constantly looking for any computer that is awake and vulnerable.  If your computer is powered off, it cannot be hacked. A sleeping or hibernating computer can be turned on if it’s “wake on LAN” feature is activated.

Finally, even when your PC is hibernating it is consuming power.  If your computer only goes to a screen saver at night then it is using a lot of power just sitting there.   That’s money flying out of your wallet just so you can check the weather 20 seconds faster.

That said, I’m powering off and going to bed.  G’night!

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Posted on May 10, 2010, in How To and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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