The Debate Continues – Should You Leave Your Computer “ON” or Turn it “OFF”

There has been a lot of debate over the years whether you should power down your computer daily or just leave it “on” all of the time. I’ve always been a firm believer of powering the computer”off” when finished using it at the end of the day. When I was managing a computer network, the standard I had in place required all users to power down their PC’s prior to going home. If I found a PC “on”, then I remotely powered it “off”. I still use this same practice at home. During the day, I turn the computer “on”, and all peripheral components (i.e. drives, router, etc…), via a power strip (surge protector); then, I power the computer “off” at the end of the day (prior to going to bed) or if I leave the house for an extended period of time. My theories and reasonings for this practice are as follows:

  1. A computer that is left “on” all the time, is a potential security risk and is an open invitation internally (by other people) and externally (by hackers and such). (Especially when your network is connected to the outside world AND due to the fact the majority of people, and businesses, do not keep their security software up to date.)
  2. Extends the life of the computer. (A common debate is that turning the PC “on” and “off” promotes a negative impact on the “service life” of the computer. I personally can attest that most computers, with today’s advanced technology, will reach the end of their “useful life” prior to their actual “service life”, even if you turn them “on” and “off” multiple times.);
  3. Could be a potential fire hazard. (I’ve seen computers and monitors go up in smoke.);
  4. Can save electricity. (See U.S. Department of Energy – “When To Turn Off Personal Computers“);
  5. Refreshes the memory and the memory resident programs and services in the computer when you completely do a “cold restart” of the computer. (Many people let their PC’s go into a “sleep/standy mode” or “hibernate” mode. I still prefer what is called a “cold” restart.);
  6. Will keep the internal components of the computer cleaner. (When a computer is “on”, the fans are pushing and pulling air to keep components cool; however, this air flow is a dust magnet.); AND FINALLY,
  7. Your icons on the computer screen, over the life of the computer, will start to war with each other. (Watch what actually can happen – click on the graphic, “Icon’s Story” for a demo. The demo is in Adobe Flash.)

DEMO – Watch What Happens to Your Icons At Night If You Leave Your Computer “ON”
(click on the logo, then wait for it to load)

Icon's Story


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22 thoughts on “The Debate Continues – Should You Leave Your Computer “ON” or Turn it “OFF”

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  1. Hey Rick,

    Good one – personal experience such as this, overrides any “study” I can think of.

    I once left a computer on for just over a year during an antimalware test, which sat very close to another machine which was turned off nightly. At annual cleanup time, the condition of the machines was dramatically different.

    The “never off” was FILTHY!

    Great article.



    1. Thanks Bill… Especially for the example that you provided. Demonstrates the importance of really shutting down our PC’s when not in use. I usually turn mine on in the morning and have it set to go into standby when I am not using it. At the end of the day, I turn it “off”.



  2. Rick,
    While #3 in and of itself is reason enough, I cannot help but feel the #7 should have been higher up on the list, as, so far, not one person I have ‘quizzed’ is aware of this frightening phenomenon…


  3. #5 and # 6 are the two main reason I shut my system down each night and anytime I’m going to be gone for more than an hour. With Windows 7 and an SSD drive it only takes me 18 seconds to get to the desktop.

    Restarting is also the first thing I do anytime I get a weird error…like my online bank saying it couldn’t recognize Java this morning when I was trying to scan a check. Restart will fix many errors.


  4. Perfect timing! My boss came in my office a couple days ago and said his machine was bogged down and his email wasn’t working.

    From past experience, I immediately new his temp file folder was jam packed and ran CCleaner which churned for the better part of a half hour to clean everything up. I asked when the last time he turned his computer off.

    His reply: I don’t.

    I personally shut down all of my computers every day except my home computer which acts as a server and I reboot it on the weekend along with my weekly cleaning regime.

    So unless you are running a server, shut it down. You save power and the computer gets a chance to clean itself.


    1. G,

      I am in total agreement. Shut the PC down! I tell you, one of my biggest worries is fire. Some people may laugh; but most people do not clean out their PCs. I have seen computers covered so bad, on the inside, with dust that it is no wonder they have not ignited.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with this.



    1. Mrinmay,

      You are now a true blue, full fledged tech… You have personally experienced the icons war as a result of leaving the computer “on”.

      In all seriousness, I really do appreciate your input and expertise.



  5. Hey Rick,
    I’m guilty. Since I avoid the slow system activation, I always just put my system on ‘sleep’. I might change this way now that you’ve enlightened me and others. Bravo.


      1. Hey, I forgot to mention another reason why I don’t shut down. For some weird reason, my Windows have updates EVERYDAY so that when I shut down before sleeping, my system updates automatically so I’ll have to wait for it to finish. What happens most of the time is that I fall asleep leaving my netbook running and open instead of it being on ‘sleep’ so that’s more damage prone LOL


      2. Hey Rick,
        I recalled when I worked as assistant admin in a public internet shop, the manager of the shop don’t ever shut down the system monitor and I forgot the reason why. Is it because he’ll need to restart all the 14 pc’s?


  6. Rick,
    Great article. I’m a turn it off guy too. Those who leave theirs on because of slow startup should run a cleanup app…solve the root problem, not add to their troubles by treating a symptom.


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