Shut Down Computer or Leave It Running?

Asking the age-old question of whether you should shut down your computer or leave it running when you’re not actually using it, Bryce writes:

What is the best way to leave a computer idle? Should I shut down, log off, or let the screen saver run? If I were to leave my computer running all night, would it somehow affect the performance of the computer? Could it be a safety hazard leaving a computer running with nobody watching it? Does the answer to this question vary in laptops (and their battery life)?

Shut Down Computer or Leave It Running?

Should you shut down your computer or leave it running?

Well, Bryce, this has been a contested issue with many. For as many people who say that it’s imperative to shut down computers when you’re not using them, you’ll find just as many who say that you should leave them on. I leave my main computer on all the time and it doesn’t seem to have adversely affected it. I only shut down the computer when I absolutely have to, and as of now, my computer still acts and reacts the same way as it did when it was new (knock on whatever the heck they used to make this desk).

What’s the right thing to do, though?

Shut Down Computer

If you believe that you should shut down your computer between uses, take heart that people who tell you that all of that heating up and cooling off will damage your computer’s guts are forgetting that we frequently turn plenty of other electronics on and off without ill effect. Television sets, for instance, don’t usually get left on for 24 hours a day, but they get plenty of use in the average modern household. One point does go to the shut down crowd for the obvious benefit of saving a good chunk of money on the electric bill over the course of a year.

Leave Computer Running

If you’re in the leave it running camp, take heart that the people who tell you that the overall heat generated by being in a constant “on” state will damage your computer’s guts are forgetting that most servers — like the one that’s housing the words you’re reading on the Internet at this very second — have to be left running for 24 hours, seven days a week, with very little intermissions of maintenance downtime. As far as being a safety hazard, you’d probably hear about more buildings burning down as a result of the very common practice of leaving computers running if it were an issue. Most smart phones are left on constantly (you wouldn’t want to miss that important call in the middle of the night, after all); they get a little warm, but unless there’s a rare manufacturing defect that’s generally discovered before hitting the streets, they don’t usually blow up.

Some say that leaving a laptop, tablet, or other battery-operated device on and plugged into a wall in an ever-charging state may be a bad idea only because it can decrease the battery’s lifespan and ability to maintain 100% of its potential charge, but this has been largely dispelled as a myth.

I know I’m going to get some heated disagreement here, but what do you ladies and gents think? Do you shut down your computer when it’s not in use, or do you leave it running? Please leave a comment and share your reasons — for or against — with the rest of us!

Image: Project 365 Day 4: Do Not Switch Off by anemoneprojectors via Flickr

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • Cal Adkins

    I think this would answered differently depending on the person’s usage patterns. I let my computer go to sleep after a few hours because my wife and I both use it throughout the day. So usually it stays on during the day and goes to sleep at night to save electricity and increase the life of the components by not being in use and wearing out fans and inviting in more dust and dirt into the system unnecessarily. Also it only takes a few seconds to come out of sleep and be ready so there’s not much waiting. I think some people leave their systems on because they are kind of slow and take awhile to boot and they use it on and off throughout the day. As someone who has worked on PC’s for almost 14 yrs. it can help the lifespan of your computer to let it go to sleep or shut it down if your not gonna use it for several hours. Fans wear out, hardrives will wear out. On the other hand if you plan on replacing your computer anyway after 3 yrs or so you may not care how long it lasts and just let it run!