If you have a laptop computer, then deciding whether or not to turn off your computer is a simple matter of saving your battery until you need it again. But should you turn off a desktop machine? There are several arguments for and against it, and it’s the subject of this week’s Modern Nerd.
Hardware as a Rock
Your hardware inside a desktop computer takes a fair amount of abuse while it is in operation. Processors, graphics cards, hard drives, and other peripherals generate heat, and the heating and cooling of these components can cause wear during power cycling, but can also reduce its lifespan if kept hot 24 hours a day.
These arguments both have validity, but as a general rule hardware is designed to handle the heat of computer operation. Hardware does not fail for no reason, especially if not being pushed beyond its recommended limits. You can feel safe in the knowledge that if you must operate your computer 24 hours a day, you will not have to worry about your processor crapping out on you because of it.
You Can… Why Would You?
There are several reasons why a computer would have to be on all of the time. Networked computers that store resources that others meet access to at any time, and servers must be left on. If you remotely access your computer with a smartphone or tablet it does you no good if your computer is off.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t have any of these reasons why you should have your computer on, the last reason is the economics of the issue. Gaming computers can have power supplies that go up to 1000 watts. A normal computer averages 300 watts. The power consumption of a desktop computer can cost you several hundred dollars a year. Even if your computer is new and modern, and has power saving tools, when you are not using it its costing you money.
Personally I never considered turning off my old desktop. It ran all day, every day, with only a few exceptions for the better part of 8 years. It was reliable and strong; when you build a computer with adequate cable management and air circulation it can run as long as you need it to.
Ultimately the decision is yours. It is better for your power bill if you run your computer only when necessary, but all of the pieces in it are capable of running as long as you need. The hardware in a television is the same as a computer in many ways, and a television is not run 24 hours a day. Power cycling does not reduce the life in any appreciable way.
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