Technology Explained

Should I Put My PC To Sleep Or Leave It On & Save The World?

Chris Hoffman 06-03-2013

should i put my pc to sleepMost people put their PCs to sleep, hibernate them, or turn them off when they’re not in-use. However, you can also choose to run your PC 24/7, contributing your PC’s processing power to distributed computing projects 10 Ways To Donate Your CPU Time To Science Read More . With these projects, your PC can help fight cancer, test climate change models, or even search for alien life.


However, computers use power when they’re on, and they use more power when their CPUs (or GPUs) are going full-throttle. Participating in these projects will increase your electricity bill An Energy Saving Masterclass For Computer Users About 10% of an average home’s power use is dedicated to computers. That is the average for the United States, however, and is only an average. Users who are computer enthusiasts may find that their... Read More .

How Your PC Can Help

Many important projects need a large amount of processing power. Rather than rent expensive supercomputers – which may not even provide enough processing power if they were running 24/7 – these projects ask for volunteers to contribute their PCs’ processing power over the Internet.

You can download and run a program that makes your PC part of the distributed computing project. The project will use your computer’s resources when you aren’t using them – when they’d just be sitting idle – to help calculate many small tasks. Your computer will receive units of work to do from a central server, perform the work, and then return the results to the server over the Internet.

One of the more popular projects is Stanford’s Folding@home, which simulates protein folding. Protein folding data is important to medical research, and has implications for everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. Since the Folding@home project started in 2000, 109 scientific research papers have been produced from the Folding@home data.

should i put my pc to sleep


Energy Use & Your Electricity Bill

Make no mistake – participating in these distributed computing projects will increase your electricity bill. Computers use almost no power when they’re asleep Windows 7 Power Options and Sleep Modes Explained When Windows 7 launched, one of Microsoft's selling points was that it was designed to help your battery last longer. One of the main features users will actually notice is that the screen dims before... Read More , more power when they’re on, and even more power when they’re being run full-throttle. Running your computer’s CPU or GPU What Is the Difference Between an APU, CPU, and GPU? Confused about computer processor acronyms? It's time to learn the difference between an APU, CPU, and GPU. Read More full-throttle all of the time will increase your electricity bill.

How much will it increase your electricity bill? Well, that depends. Different computers use different amounts of electricity, and different areas have different electricity prices. Matt looked at how much it costs to run a computer in different scenarios Does Saving Energy With Your PC Really Help Your Wallet? Computers, like all electronics, consume a fair amount of electricity. And while the efficiency of the modern computer hardware has improved relative to older parts, there’s still a lot of energy wasted. Finding ways to... Read More . He estimated running your computer at full-throttle while you sleep would cost you an extra $50 (for a Core i7) or $70 (for a Phenom X6) per year. That’s just while you sleep – running it at full-throttle 24/7 would likely cost you significantly more. You’re probably looking at at least another $100 a year.

Older computers with worse power efficiency How Much Power Does Your PC Need? Computers need power. They turn it into heat, noise, and light -- like magic. But how much power does your PC need, exactly? Let's find out where all that power goes... Read More will cost more money to run. Sadly, as they’re slower, they’ll also produce less results for the project.

Running your computer’s CPU or GPU full-throttle will also produce additional heat. If you’re in a hot area, you may have to fight that by paying more for air conditioning. (Even if you’re in a cold area, a computer isn’t the most efficient source of heating.)


put my pc to sleep

Wear & Tear

Wear and tear is a worry when running distributed computing projects. Your CPU will be generating a large amount of heat inside your computer’s case, and this heat can damage components. Theoretically, a CPU should be able to handle running at 100% for a long time. However, in the real world, some CPUs may be shipped with inferior heat sinks that aren’t good enough to disperse such a large amount of heat.

Some computers may not have proper cooling. For example, many laptops won’t be able to handle being run at 100% 24/7. They’re just not designed to disperse the heat properly and will overheat.

With a solid desktop computer that has proper cooling, you shouldn’t have to worry about wear and tear. If you have a sleek ultrabook What Is An Ultrabook & Can It Succeed? [Technology Explained] Remember when the word laptop described virtually every mobile computer on the market? The choices were certainly easier back then (because there was simply less choice available), but today there’s a far wider variety including... Read More with poor cooling, you’ll probably want to stay away from distributed computing projects.


Warning: If you’re overclocking your CPU What Is Overclocking, And How It Can Help Your PC, Tablet, & Phone [MakeUseOf Explains] Provided that you have hardware from a manufacturer who understands those principles, you can do plenty to juice up your system, whether it be a computer, tablet, or smartphone. One of the best things you... Read More , running it at full load 24/7 can produce more heat than it’s designed for, damaging it. If you’re using distributed computing projects, you shouldn’t be overclocking your CPU. You may even want to underclock your CPU to avoid producing so much heat.

put my pc to sleep

A Note About Bitcoin Mining

Some of the less-philanthropic of you will be thinking about mining bitcoins for yourself guiminer - An Extensive Tool For Bitcoin Mining As of late there's been a been a great buzz going around about Bitcoin, the latest P2P digital currency. One of the main activities of getting Bitcoins is through a process called mining. No need... Read More instead of using your PC for the greater good. However, you shouldn’t bother. A CPU mines bitcoins so slowly that you’ll spend more money for electricity than you’ll gain in bitcoins. A computer’s GPU is much faster, but GPU mining appears no longer profitable for most people, either. ASIC mining has replaced both GPU and CPU mining.

If you have a fast GPU and cheap electricity prices where you live, GPU mining may still be profitable for a few months at most, but don’t count on it. The Bitcoin mining rush is over, at least for people with standard computer hardware.


put my pc to sleep

Getting Started

You can get started with distributed computing by installing Berkeley’s BOINC, which allows you to easily download and install distributed computing projects. We’ve covered getting started with BOINC and looked at some of the most interesting distributed computing projects Help Make The World Better With These Amazing Distributed Computing Projects Years ago, I wrote an article about donating your CPU time to science - taking advantage of an Internet computing model known as distributed computing. In that article, I discussed some of the cool projects... Read More .

should i put my pc to sleep

So What Should You Do?

Whether you want to participate in distributed computing projects is a personal decision. Joining a distributed computing project will do some amount of good, but it will cost you additional money in electricity. A newer, faster computer will do more good for the same amount of electricity than an older, slower computer.

One thing’s for sure: You shouldn’t be mining bitcoins with your PC. The payout is so low that you’ll spend more on electricity than you’ll gain in Bitcoin. You’ll effectively be transferring money from your electric bill to your bank account, losing some in the process.

If you’re going to use your computer’s idle power, do it for the greater good.

Image Credits: Laptops Sharing Via Shutterstock, Lightbulb on Electricity Bill via Shutterstock, Laptop in Open Fire via Shutterstock

Related topics: Energy Conservation, Sleep Mode.

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  1. Chris Marcoe
    March 27, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Is there a MUO guide more up to date for Bit Coins than the one linked?

  2. Keith Swartz
    March 8, 2013 at 7:00 am

    If you ever wondered or just didn't know, this article is for you. Nicely written. Thank you Chris &!

  3. Jeremy Garnett
    March 8, 2013 at 12:52 am

    I've been meddling with such projects on and off over the years. Protein folding and climate mapping were my mainstays for a couple of years, however, I do tend to stray back to the project I started processing as a kid - SETI

  4. Igor Rizvic
    March 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I usually put it to sleep

  5. Efi Dreyshner
    March 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for the tips :)

  6. macwitty
    March 7, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I have my computer in the office on Stanford’s Folding@home at night time. Often forgot to plug in my laptop at home but I'll try to do it more often. Yes, it cost you a bit and you use a natural resource why you have to think about where your electricity comes from - more coal or oil use is not good for the nature.

  7. Nevzat Akkaya
    March 7, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Let's wear some Superman t-shirt and share our computer resources :)

  8. Garris Rago
    March 7, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Forgot to mention - I'm happy leaving my computer on 24/7 as I have solar panels :)

    • Mike Merritt
      March 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      Wow !! Where do you live ? It's sunny 24/7 ?? I want to move there.

      • Garris Rago
        March 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm

        Quite the opposite, I live in England. You'd be surprised how efficient they are, work with very low sunlight, definitely enough for me to contribute to this

  9. Garris Rago
    March 7, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Thanks for the tip about bitcoin mining, I knew there would be something.

    Definitely going to contribute to the Folding@home
    Great article