Should I turn my computer off at night? Or leave it on?

posted Nov 5, 2010, 6:59 AM by Brandon Dodds   [ updated Nov 5, 2010, 8:21 AM ]

There are several reasons why it may be a good idea to turn off your computer at night. For some, it may not matter whether the computer is on or off. Most newer computers have a sleep mode when they are inactive which doesn't use much power. However, in businesses or at home, it may be wise to turn off the computer at night for security reasons.

For example, computers connected to the Internet via DSL or cable modem are vulnerable to hacking if they are still connected. You can either turn off the connection or turn off the computer. You may need to keep the computer turned on, conversely, if the computer is used as a fax machine as well.

 However, if you work from home and log into a business, you should definitely turn off the computer at night, or at the very least, log out from the business. Not only does leaving the computer on threaten the security of your personal computer, but it could also give hackers entry to your business.

 Sleep mode on computers still uses some electricity, and the most economic thing to do is to turn off the computer at night, especially if you're is penny pinching. Saving electricity also has environmental benefits. Older computers may not have the sleep feature, so if you have an older computer you might want to turn it off to save money. Obviously, laptops, which run on a battery, will have a longer battery life if they are turned off when not in use.

 You may turn off the computer out of the common misconception that this will protect the computer from power surges. Actually, this is not the case. Even when people turn off their computer, the computer is still vulnerable to power surges if it's not hooked up to a surge protector. Be sure to purchase a good surge protector and do not skimp on money in this case. Find a well rated one that will protect your computer whether off or on from power surges.

 Some computer experts suggest that certain programs benefit from getting a break at night, like Windows®. Turning off the computer at night may help eliminate crashes during the day, since the program is rebooted when the computer is turned on again in the morning.

 There used to be many reasons to turn off your PC, often at the end of a workday or before a weekend. These days? Not so much. For those who'd like a longer answer, here are the more common reasons for turning your PC off often and leaving it turned on full-time, and the techie replies for each:

"Leave your PC on to prevent the hard drive from wearing out."

When you start your computer, the hardware goes through a little more mechanical effort than usual. The theory was that this extra wear was bad for the equipment. But hardware is more durable now, and this isn't really an issue. By the time hardware wears out naturally, you'll be way overdue for an upgrade!

"Turn your PC off to prevent the hard drive from wearing out."

Yep, I've heard this same argument for leaving a PC off and on. Leaving a hard drive turned on full time is not a bad thing. Like the answer above, a good hard drive is durable enough to last longer than it takes for your computer to become outdated. Additionally, there are often built-in power settings that will temporarily slow down or stop a drive from spinning after a period of disuse.

"Turn off your PC to keep your monitor from wearing out."

This was also the original intent of the appropriately named "screen saver". When a monitor was left turned on, it would fall victim to "burn in". This is when an image displayed on the screen would "stick" - the image would still be there even though the monitor was turned off! You can still see this effect in any video game arcade: Look carefully at the monitor of any turned-off video game that uses a CRT, and you'll be able to see the faint image of the video game's main menu.

Today, computer monitors are very resistant to burn-in, although it still can happen with certain older CRTs. If you're really concerned, you can adjust your PC power settings to put your monitor in "standby mode". This will temporarily turn off the screen if you haven't been using it, and you can "wake it up" with a shake of the mouse or a press of a key.

"Turn off your PC to conserve energy."

This is still a justifiable reason to turn off your PC. A desktop PC, monitor, and associated devices will suck up 300 or 400 watts. That's a lot of light bulbs burning full-time. If you're concerned about the electric waste, you can turn off your PC. If you don't mind paying the extra dollars in electric bills, leave it on.
If you aren't concerned about money, computer security, and crashes, then you don't have to turn off the computer at night. But, since at least one of these issues is usually a concern, you might want to turn off your computer at night.