To get the longest life out of your computer, is it better to leave it on all the time, or to shutdown/start up after each use?

Joseph Videtto December 22, 2012
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I’ve read that the biggest strain to computer components comes during a power up (not sure about power down). That said:

To get the longest life out of your computer, is it better to leave it on all the time, or to shutdown/start up after each use, and the related questions:

– what is the ballpark cost in electricity (US rates) for leaving your PC on 24/7
– what is the ballpark cost in electricity (US rates) for leaving your PC on12 hours on/ 7

  1. Justin Ellenwood
    January 1, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Turning it on and off many times a day will hurt it. Turning it on a few times a day will not cause any damage. It is a best practice to reboot your computer at least once a day.

  2. Kannon Yamada
    December 26, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Hey Joe, I did the math for my own computers and found that 24/7 use at max wattage draw roughly equals the wattage in dollars every year.

    However, there's three factors that complicate this calculation - first, power supplies have varying degrees of efficiency. For example an 80% efficient 1000 watt PSU consumes 1,200 watts at max draw or something like that - 20% of the power it draws is wasted in the conversion process. And second, power supplies don't draw max wattage all the time. When idle, they draw a fraction of the total power. And when in use, they normally draw a lot less than their max rating.

    And third, my math is horrible.

    I based estimates on the following: we're charged.10 cents per kilowatt hour (which is a very rough approximation, as power costs vary by time of day and region), and there's 1,000 watts in one kilowatt, and a 1,000 watt appliance operating at full capacity consumes 1,200 watts per hour, or 1.2 kilowatts.

    So, 24 hours in a day times 365 days in a year times 1.2 kilowatts consumed per hour = your power costs would be $1051 per year.

    In reality, your computer would likely, on average, have a 400 watt PSU that's 70% efficient. And if it was of good quality, it would consume hardly anything at idle - perhaps 25-50 watts. When in use, it probably draws about 100-200 watts.

    Generically, I would say that older computers, with less efficient PSUs should be shut down at night. Newer computers, with good PSUs should also be shut down, but they're not draining much, so it's less of an issue.

    • Kannon Yamada
      December 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      OK, quick answer - most modern computers cost a few dollars a year to run in sleep mode. Assuming it's being used 8 hours a day 5 days a week, the monthly energy costs are as probably less than 50 dollars for a computer getting intensive amounts of use. A computer that properly sleeps, turned on all year long, may use anywhere from 1-6 dollars. Not much at all.

      I dug up a link dealing with idle vs sleep mode wattage consumption:

      http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080824174936AAEMQXV

      Here's the page that Yahoo Answers references.

      If a computer is properly configured to go into sleep mode, it will consume 1-6 watts while asleep (S1, S2, S3 sleep mode). Sleep mode is accessible through the BIOS. S3 tends to yield the best results, but can sometimes cause driver issues. S1 is bulletproof as a method of sleeping your computer, but is less power efficient than S3.

      I think the key to saving money and extending the life of your system is in properly setting your computers up to enter S3, sleep mode, rather than disengaging sleep entirely.

  3. shaurya gupta
    December 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Please shut it down coz it is more important to save energy than to save a computer...

  4. vtq.
    December 24, 2012 at 10:28 am

    i think the habit of not powering off the computer has developed in the times, when people came to work, start the pc using the big red lever of their 286 or 386 and waited for about 10 minutes. the smartest ones used this time to boil water and crush roasted coffe-beans :-)

  5. maria
    December 24, 2012 at 5:28 am

    shutdown. just as human beings, need some rest. :)

  6. Manik Kumar
    December 24, 2012 at 4:14 am

    I would say as a system engineer..it definitely affects the computer in the long run and the life of a Notebook and PC's but if you really don't want to shutdown the computer it is recommended to at least put the PC in SLEEP mode it will also save electricity.
    for best and fastest performance i recommend to buy the newest ULTRA BOOK'S its real FAST boot up so you don't need to wait long like out traditional PC's.
    But taking in mind all this if you plan to change the PC or NB in lets say 4-5 years then its OK for you not to shut down the computer often...

  7. Brandon Ragoo
    December 24, 2012 at 4:07 am

    I believe think of it as the more you use something the shorter the lifespan becomes therefore the more u leave ur computer on the less lifespan it will have plus why wast so much electricity if its u are not using your computer at least put it on sleep or hibernate.

  8. Elton Mah
    December 24, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Heat is your enemy mate...
    If u wan to maintain a constant usage of ur pc, it's best to use chips instead of optical disks and best cooling systems in ur pc... still maintenance is a commitment to be made... :)

  9. Steve
    December 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I have had a mac mini server runner for 4 years straight and it's never been a problem. I actually think it make very little difference linux and mac systems seem to work non-stop and rarely need rebooting. Windows the problem isn't hardware failure it the need to reboot regularly.

    I think from my electrically engineering background which is very rusty as I haven't done any for 30 years: capacitors and components are stress when a system is switched on but components are damaged by the heat of continuos running so I guess it really doesn't matter either way - just always back up.

    • Sony Lindberg
      December 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Thanks for pointing out the problems with many Windows editions, was going to do this myself but i wasnt sure if it was just me or a real fact.
      I know that Microsoft has had quite some problems in the past with memoryallocation and memory usage and often resorted to simply swap to a disk whenever there were less than 1 GB left on the allocated memory.

      Indeed their systems do need to reboot, something i havnt seen at all when using ubuntu or Mac os.

  10. Pete
    December 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Much of what I've read here is nonsense, speculation, and/or bs.
    I've left my personal computers on for +99% of their lives for the last 25+ years.
    Sure, I've burned a lot of electricity, (like leaving a light bulb on), but my computers were always there, ready to go. There were, of course, the occasional power outage from the power company.
    Again, look at what others have mentioned regarding servers and the fact that they are left on 24/7.
    I've been in the computer repair business for 36+ years and I've heard this 'discussion' every year.
    Just use it and enjoy it.

  11. TheProudNoob
    December 23, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    If I were to build an energy efficient HTPC, then I would leave it on. As it is, I have an overclocked gaming computer, so I need to turn it off when I'm not using it.

  12. Merry
    December 23, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Leaving it on all the time is not the best idea because it is not environmentally friendly. Shutting your pc down or starting it up after every use/ leaving it on all the time does not have anything to do with the longevity of your computer. I'd suggest putting it to sleep when its not in use for a short period of time as this uses little power(economical) or putting it to hibernation when its not going to be in use for a long period of time. This also saves energy and your computer starts off where you left it!

  13. Sakura Yumura
    December 23, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I had a computer that stayed on nearly every day for 7 years straight, I just made sure it had plenty of ventilation and at least a surge protector to protect the components, and it's still running strong. Also, I would make sure to go through monthly and clean out the dust that accumulates on electronics as well.

    In fact I'm re-purposing it into a personal server soon and expect another 7 years out of it easily.

  14. Chris Reich
    December 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    The biggest failure mode of modern electronics is caused by heat cycling. Electronics get warm when on, and cool down when off. Whether ones particular case justifies leaving equipment on depends on many factors, including the potential expense of downtime. It is my considered opinion, and my advice to those who ask for it, to leave a home computer on until retiring for the evening. This yields one thermal cycle per day on those days the computer is used, and conserves some energy overnight.

    There is much more that could be said on the subject, but I will let this suffice.

    • Anonymous
      December 23, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      "The biggest failure mode of modern electronics is caused by heat cycling."
      Not true - the biggest cause of failure is user error, mistreatment, accidents caused by other people or the main user, software issues, manufacturing defects on moving parts, electrical surges, poor quality power supplies.... heat cycling is way down the list somewhere.

      Put it this way - I have plenty of machines built in the early 90's that are perfectly fine and are powered up and shut down sometimes several times a day. The same goes for my still fully working BBC Micro (made in 1982) and many other pieces of equipment including my old 1950's valve amplifier.

      Shut the PC down. Even if it shortens the life of the PC (and that's a big if), what you save in electricity alone will more than pay for any repairs compared to the shortened life expectancy.

  15. Félix S. De Jesús
    December 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    You have to put to rest the computer in most of the time because the computer can get tired and overheated every time. It's like you ain't sleep for a month and you keep working without any rest.

  16. Tech Nech
    December 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    You can have you computer on for as long as you like. But when the temperatures go high it's better to shut down and let it cool off. Also you need to save electricity too!!

  17. Sony Lindberg
    December 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    I do not have any real evidence of what will be the best thing to do but here's some fact:

    Cooled electronics works better than warm electronics due to the fact that the copper wires lead electricity better if chilled and will show an increased resistance if heated.

    Fans will break down eventually and they have an expected lifetime measured in hours. Powering down your computer will save up to 12 hrs (depending on how long you sleep) fan-time every day.

    Keeping your computer on will probably result in more dust around and in your case due to the airflow and different air pressures that exists around a normal case (stationary computer) and laptop.

    Servers are computers that run for days and weeks on end without rebooting or with a very short downtime (shut down). However, the hardware in these servers are made to last a very long time and there is redundancy to keep the server from shutting down uncontrollably. With that said, a commercial computer may not take any direct harm from being powered on for longer periods of time, however they might.

    If you power of your computer when leaving the home you will reduce the likelihood of damage caused by excessive heating of components, electrical discharges (lightning, diferent electric spikes in the local grid (your home and apparent is a "grid") and hard drive lifetime.

    Harddrives, fans, powersupply units and cpu's all have very limited lifespans and are used whenever your computer is turned on. For example; your cpu is always in use by different systems, and your harddrives may be spun up just to store a single byte.

    Do what you think is best.
    I do not have any test lab or reports about this question, only facts about technology in general.

    • Anonymous
      December 24, 2012 at 3:08 am

      wow...those are some pretty good insights.

      • Sony Lindberg
        December 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm

        Thanks :) Tried to be pretty thorrow as the question demands to be wiewd from several angles.

  18. dave
    December 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    this is my windows 7
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/11596024/screenshot.jpg

    more than 20days (working time) without restart

    • ha14
      December 24, 2012 at 9:41 am
    • ha14
      December 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

      nice picture, how much heat is generated?

      • Sony Lindberg
        December 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm

        Indeed. With what looks like an i7 (i guess at a pretty high hertz too) it will draw a significant ammount of power. As energy cant be destroyed it has to convert into something, mainly heat.

  19. Anonymous
    December 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Shutting it down, of course, not talking about the constant heat applied to capacitors on the PSU and mainboard, imagine that the hard drive would have to spin 24/7, shortening it's lifespan.

  20. Ahmed
    December 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

    if your PC doesn't overheat, it may be fine. but when you don't want to use it i suggest put to to sleep, that way electricity will be saved as well as processor will get time to cool down.
    Many people have different opinions about this, some even say turn it off after every hour for 10 minutes then use. its up to you.

  21. susendeep dutta
    December 23, 2012 at 11:50 am

    It's better to shutdown your PC because -

    the components will live longer because of less heat
    HDD will have long life as it would not get worn out fast
    the fans and HDD(some exceptions exist) do spin even if PC is in sleep mode
    you could save more electricity as even in sleep mode,there's power consumption
    for the benefit of your earth's precious resources

    • Anonymous
      December 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      HDD's spin down when not used by default, computers vent their own heat quite well due to fan systems, etc. but there is huge power savings and wear savings by shutting down due to reducing wear on moving parts (fans) and when fans fail components can overheat and you'd end up killing your machine.

  22. ha14
    December 23, 2012 at 10:41 am

    in industry and research labs (workplace) they do let computers power up all the day, now if you are at home probably better to power off computer and this minimize accidents like electrical accidents.

  23. Fawad Mirzad
    December 23, 2012 at 10:26 am

    As per experience from my friends putting computers on . and even like some of my friends never shutting it down and putting it to sleep have created more problems than my computer which i turn it off when i do not need. Could not find a reliable reference from a manufacturer site.
    just based on my own experience

  24. Kulwinder Rouri
    December 23, 2012 at 6:58 am

    I think you have to shut down your computer. Because if you are not using it for more 20 minutes you can activate sleep mode and save electricity.

  25. Junil Maharjan
    December 23, 2012 at 4:53 am

    I would shut it down once in a while, saves you a ton of bill on electricity as well as helps it cool down a little. heat is evil when it comes to computers.

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