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Debate: Leaving Computers on or Turning Them Off

Power Button

I came across an article today in the New York Times concerning the age old question – should I turn my computer off at night or should I leave it running?

The article left out some many of the most important factors that one must consider when faced with this decision – a mistake that I intend to rectify.

First off, let me point out that there is no simple yes or no answer to this question that will encapusulate all of the possible uses for a computer. However, there are definitive answers for most of the individual scenarios. It all depends on how you plan to use your computer.

You need to leave you computer on if:

1. You are on a network that is upgraded and backed up around the clock.
2. You are using your machine as a server.
3. You are running programs that utilize idle time – like Community Grid Software.

You should turn your computer off at night if:

1. You do not use your computer regularly.
2. You will be leaving your computer idle for an extended period of time.
3. You are concerned about your energy bill.
4. Your computer is unprotected from viruses, power surges, and other intruders.
5. Your computer runs especially hot for one reason or another – I would say that CPU temps around 115-120 degrees F. would be getting a little too hot. (Try increasing airflow or looking into some better cooling systems.)

You can leave your computer on if:

1. You use the computer frequently.
2. You are not overly concerned about the energy bill.
3. You do not have any of the problems mentioned above.

Keep the following in mind: Many people argue that turning a computer on and off stresses the components through constant expansion and contraction from heat. There may be some truth to this – but so far, nothing has shown that there is a significant difference in durablity either way.

My recommendation: Unless you fall into the first category, I would suggest turning your computer off when you do not plan on using it for awhile. If you use your computer frequently you may want to keep it on all day and shut it down at night (or at least periodically – occasional reboots are essential.)

Posted by Sean


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