Leave Computer On Or Off When Not In Use?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Robert G. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I've been a fan of your newsletter for quite some time. Thanks for that!

Question: at the end of the day, is it best to log off and keep the computer running and ready for the next time it is used, or should I shut it down completely and power off? I've heard different variations on the answer to this age-old question. If I leave it running, the fans are always spinning, which causes wear and tear. What do you think? "

My response:

Good question!

I personally always leave my laptop running 24 hours a day because I'm always using it (I'm pretty geeky that way). The other reason I don't shut it down is because I don't like waiting for it to boot up every time I want to use it again.

Inside my laptop, there is only one fan and it remains dormant until the laptop reaches a certain temperature. The hard drive is usually always spinning -- which causes the most wear and tear; however, it too has a power-saving mode that "hibernates" when it's not in use. Wear and tear on hard drives these days is not really an issue since they have a life expectancy of around 100,000 hours (or roughly 5 years, depending on how often you use your PC).

Having said that: there's not much difference between a laptop and a desktop in terms of hardware and usuage. As you pointed out, desktop PC's have case fans and CPU fans that typically run non-stop, but even then, these items are not expensive to replace if they brake down. Newer desktop PC's also have power saving options that can shut the fans down completely when not in use, or lower the rotational speed to reduce power consumption (and presumably extend the life of the hardware).

As far as shutting down, turning off, and then restarting a PC / laptop at a later date: the only issue with that is expansion and contraction of chips. When the PC runs, it gets hot and the chips inside expand. When the PC is powered off, the chips contract. Although unlikely, this constant contraction and expansion can cause a chip to become unseated, which leads to hardware failure. As I said, this is fairly unlikely today, but back in 1987, this was a major issue with my Commodore Amiga 500. In fact, when my Amiga wouldn't turn on, the computer store rep recommended I give it the "6-inch drop test" (which involved holding the computer 6 inches from the ground and then dropping it) in order to reset the chips. Much to my surprise, it worked!

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