Should I Turn Off My Computer at Night? January 19, 2010

Here is a very common question we get asked by our clients. “Is it better to turn the computer off at night or is it better to keep it on?” We will answer this frequently asked question. We will also discuss power-saving modes such as standby and hibernate.

Some people seem to think that if you keep your computer on overnight, that somehow malicious “hackers” will try to infiltrate your system. The fact is that if your computer is riddled with viruses and spyware, the hackers can access your computer any time it is on, even if you’re using it! Having  good anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware programs is essential. If you have these scheduled to scan your computer at night, when you aren’t using it, then it is actually beneficial to keep your computer running at night.

The problem with keeping the computer on has less to do with security and more to do with power consumption and lifespan. It costs money to keep the computer and monitor on. Keeping your computer on also lowers the lifespan of your computer. Monitors lose brightness over time when kept on for extended periods of time. Hard drives and fans begin to fail eventually. Your electric bills will start to go up.

So what’s the solution? The answer is in setting your computer’s power options to suit your usage.

First you should make sure that your monitor is set to turn off when it isn’t in use for a set period of time. The steps are different depending on the version of Windows you are running, but basically you will want to go to the control panel, look for your power options, then change how long it takes before the monitor goes to sleep when the mouse or keyboard isn’t being used. Two and a half hours is safe if you plan to watch movies often and for most people 30 minutes is more than enough time to keep the screen “awake”.

Another important setting is the standby and hibernate options. These are modes where the computer seems to be turned off, but is actually on but in a low-power state. Here are some basic differences between stanby,  hibernate and a full shutdown/startup:

Standby: fastest to startup and shutdown, consumes the most power, aside from being completely on of course. (Important when running on laptop battery power)

Hibernate: takes longer to shutdown and startup than standby-mode but faster than from a full shutdown, consumes less power than standby but more power than a full shutdown.

Full Shutdown/Startup: takes longest to shutdown and startup, consumes the least amount of power when off.

I like to set my computer to standby after about 2 hours, but the optimal setting varies from user to user. It all depends on when you prefer for your computer to “sleep”.

I don’t like waiting  for my computer to boot up. I usually want to just briefly look at a website or check my emails, something that will take 1 or 2 minutes. It wouldn’t make sense for me to wait two minutes to do something that only takes two minutes. Sometimes I will restart my computer when it is acting up. Standby or hibernate won’t fix those issues. The only time I do a full shutdown is when I am transporting my desktop computer or when I am putting my laptop away for a long period of time and don’t want the battery to drain. Any other time, I am using standby mode. I don’t use hibernate because it just does not seem that much faster than doing the full restart and does not offer the benefits of the full restart (clearing the ram to make the computer run more efficiently.)

So should you keep your computer running at night? Probably not. Should you turn it completely off? Not unless you like waiting for the computer to bootup. Should you put it in a lower power state? Yes. Standby works the best in most situations.

About Joey Mariano

Joey’s business philosophy is to help friends, inspire others and to advance society through the use of technology. His main core value is to always take a principled stance. In his downtime, Joey enjoys reading, photography, staying in shape and spending quality time with his family and friends.