You probably heard that turning off your computer for the night can be harmful to it. But you must’ve also heard the conflicting point of view: That you actually should turn it off when not using it for long.
So what’s the right thing to do then? Well, it turns out there are several answers to that.
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Do You Need to Shut Down Your Computer Every Night?
This belief that your desktop computer should run continuously dates back to the dawn of the computer age – the 1980s. Back then, computers were made of different materials, and turning them off and on frequently could potentially damage them.
Today, this problem no longer exists, and you can turn your desktop or laptop computer on and off without too many problems. However, when you turn your computer on, it triggers a small power surge that creates some stress on the system. This shouldn’t be too much of a burden on your electricity bill, but it could still cause you some inconvenience.
Others argue that when your device is turned off, it saves more energy than you spend when it turns on again with this surge. So the situation seems questionable at best.
It becomes clearer when you realize that modern computers, whether laptops, desktops, or tablets, are specifically designed not to be turned off completely. Engineers have taken note of the inconvenience of shutting down all the applications you have running, backing up and shutting down all your work, and then waiting for the device to start when you turn it on again.
If you have a solid-state hard drive, it can be fast, but with a conventional hard drive, it can take a long time to boot up, especially if it is old. Many parts of the computer have their own moving parts, and they need time to upgrade.
When you turn off your device, it first shuts down all the programs running on it for all users. This means that all the documents you were working on will have to be opened again, and those two dozen tabs in your browser will close as well. Modern browsers allow you to pick up where you left off, even after a stop, of course, but it will still take a little while.
Why Sometimes It’s Worth to Shut Down Your Computer
When you shut down your system, the computer shuts down everything remaining and erases its RAM. It scans all the pieces of programs, leaving your system in perfect working order. This allows it to perform better next time. If you don’t turn it off, many programs will leave traces that will accumulate, slowing down your system.
So either you turn off the computer and wait for it to reboot, or you leave it on forever, right? Uh, no!
There are several things you can do other than shutting down your computer: there are hibernation and sleep modes. These two power modes allow you to leave your computer on and back up your work while reducing power consumption. You can access them from the Windows and Mac power settings.
Sleep mode conserves power slightly less than hibernation mode, but it allows your computer to boot up almost immediately. It places everything open on your device in random access memory, or RAM, which is responsible for the activities that are currently running on the PC or laptop. When a process is in RAM, it means that you can access it immediately, and it won’t need time to load. Then your device goes into power-saving mode and pauses any activity. To exit this state, simply press a key or click your mouse, and your computer will come back to life. On some systems, however, you may need to press the power button instead.
Hibernation is a deeper sleep mode that uses no power at all, like when you turn it off, but takes longer to recover. In this state, your computer copies everything you’ve opened to the hard disk instead of putting it in ram, and only then does it go into sleep.
As I said, hard drives have moving parts that need to rotate before you can use them, which is why your computer is slower to wake up from hibernation. If you have an SSD, however, you shouldn’t even notice the difference with sleep mode, as it boots up much faster.
Hibernation Option In Windows 10 OS
Note that in newer systems, there is no obvious choice between sleep and hibernation when you click the power settings. You can check which one your device is using by going to the system settings.
- In Windows 10, you can only use the default sleep mode, and to add hibernation, you will need to open the taskbar and type power options.
- Click the first control panel that appears and choose what the power buttons do in the left panel.
- Then click Change settings that are not currently available.
- In the shutdown settings at the bottom of the screen, select the checkbox next to hibernation.
Hibernation Option in Mac OS
On the mac, you’ll have a different default mode for desktops and laptops. Usually, this is a standby mode for desktops and hibernation mode for laptops. Both of them have been selected for better performance, so there’s no need to change them. You can still do this, however, but it will require administrator rights and system tampering, so use this option at your own risk. I don’t want you to end up with a computer that doesn’t wake up, so no, I won’t tell you about it.
On Mac laptops, there’s also the option to go into sleep mode. The device will automatically enter this state after three hours of sleep if nothing is connected to it, including the charger. That’s helpful because it will conserve power for up to 30 days if everything is perfect. It still uses some charge, so don’t store it for too long.
With so many power options, turning off the computer may seem redundant, but it is not. Remember, I told you that if I turn it off, the machine wipes the memory? If you don’t do that every once in a while, you’ll end up with a slow, sleepy machine.
The programs it runs all the time will leave a lot of dirt under the hood. They will take up a lot of space and prevent you from accessing other things you’re running on. The game you released a few days ago will leave behind some small data that will allow you to start faster next time, but if you run another program, it may take up the space the game has taken up.
It will eventually find a place where you can save your own dice, but it will take more and more time for your computer to stay on.
In most cases, turning off the power solves the problem. But it is difficult to protect your data when your computer is turned on because of voltage spikes or power outages. Most laptops are fine because they simply switch from plug-in to standalone mode, but if you have a desktop computer, you’ll have an unpleasant surprise when you return.
Be sure to buy a UPS or uninterruptible power supply to avoid headaches in the event of a power outage. This is a device that provides your computer with a backup power load if the AC power suddenly goes out for any reason. It looks like a generator, but unlike this one, an inverter turns on almost instantly, so your device doesn’t shut down.
On the negative side, it only has a charge for a few minutes, so you’ll need to shut down your computer yourself quickly. Or, if you have an auxiliary generator, it will have enough time to turn itself on to save you the trouble.