A very common question people have when it comes to using their computer is if they should be leaving it on when it is not in use or shutting it down, especially at night. While there is no “true” answer to this question, I will go over the benefits of each choice so that you can decide for yourself what is the better option for you as a user.
Leaving your computer on can be a great option for users that need instant access to it when you need it. Leaving it on means no waiting around for your Operating System to boot up, just sit down and away you go. Anti-virus and Anti-Mal-ware programs usually have a scheduled time when they will scan your computer for threats. If this time is set for the night or during a time when you are not using your computer, then it makes it easier for your computer to keep itself secure.
Programs and Operating System updates will also be easier to keep up-to-date when your computer is always on, otherwise you may be prompted to install updates or to scan your computer for threats when you boot up your computer. This will slow down the time its takes to get started, or cause you to skip updates that will cause security risks. So time can be a big factor in wanting to leave your computer on.
Keeping your computer on is also beneficial for users who use P2P and file sharing based programs to allow for their content to finish downloading or to complete whatever you set them to do, and is needed for people using remote desktop to access their home computer from work or work computer from home.
On the flip side, leaving your computer on will increase your general power consumption, raising your yearly electrical costs, and will cause more strain on your hardware from constant use, which will increase your chances of having a hardware failure.
In dusty environments, dust and other particles can accumulate on fans quicker causing them to become loud or fail, increasing your computers noise and causing higher computer maintenance costs.
If left on, your computer is also at more risk to electrical spikes and brown-outs. However, damage can be prevented by using a good UPS and/or surge protector.
Constant exposure to the Internet can also increase your computers risk towards getting viruses and worms.
So what option should I take?
It’s really up to you on how you use your computer. Power management has improved a lot over the last few years; you can set your computer to sleep or hibernate after being inactive for a certain amount of time which will save a lot of power and allow the computer to wake almost instantly when you need it. The down side of this, however, is that network access, downloads, and background programs will stop while your computer is asleep, so make sure to pick a power management option that works for you.
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