What’s Best? Sleep, Hibernate, or Shut Down Your Computer at Night

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Most people are perfectly fine with prompting their desktop or notebook to ‘nod off’ at the end of a day, and especially for those who work on their device and will be back in front of the screen first thing tomorrow morning. It’s true that they can go into a low-power mode and there’ll be no light coming from the screen and illuminating the room once you tell your computer to go to sleep. Others who aren’t going to be using theirs as regularly may instead choose to shut those down and be perfectly all right with the time it takes to get it booted up and running again once they do want to use it again.

The majority won’t really give it much more than that, and here at 4GoodHosting we’re like any other good Canadian web hosting provider with a good reputation in that we’ve got our minds on much more detailed and relevant aspects of what’s going in the digital world. But like any of you we’ve got desktops and notebooks at home too. That’s why we found a certain article on this topic to be informative in just the type of way we aim to offer our weekly blog content, and so here it is for you too!

Let’s have a look at this, and try to come to a consensus on what’s the best choice for you when you’re doing using your computer – put it to sleep, have it hibernate, or shut it down entirely.

Popular Thinking

The standard belief is that choosing not to turn your computer off at night is preferable, because shut downs and start ups tax the computer and lead to some of its components wearing out more quickly. Alternately, leaving it on does the same for other ones that never get to rest when the computer is still running, and even if it’s long since asleep.

There’s some truth to each of them, so the question then becomes which is the better of the two choices. Here’s the skinny on all of that.

The Issue

It’s easy to understand why believing that cutting the power with shutting down properly has the potential to do damage to your computer’s hardware. But can frequent shutdowns and restarts do the same? What are the comparison between turning the device off and leaving it on but in low-power ‘sleep’ or ‘hibernate’ states when not in use?

The source turned to for a definitive answer in this case was Best Buy’s Geek Squad, and here’s what they had do say on a topic that most would agree there very well qualified to comment on. So they were asked very plainly – is it best to leave my computer on and let it go to sleep and eventually hibernate if I’m done using it, or is it best to shut it down and then restart it then.

The Verdict, and Reasoning

According to the knowledgeable guys and gals at Geek Squad, the answer as to which choice is best depends on how often you use your computer. Those who use it more than a few times every day are best to leave it on and let it drift off into a sleep. Alternately, those who use it for an hour or two a day and here and there should go ahead and turn it off between usages.

The long and short explanation for this – and the most relevant piece of information regarding resultant wear & tear on the device – is that leaving a computer on indefinitely is less stressful overall than turning it on and off, especially if you were to do that several times a day.

Every time a computer turns on, the surge of power required for the boot up isn’t harmful in itself, but over years the repeating of that power surge can shorten the computer’s lifespan. These risks are of course greater for an older computer, and in particular for ones that have a traditional hard disk drive with moving parts rather than a solid state drive that’s more robust.

That said, all mechanical parts will fail eventually, and using them constantly will inevitably wear them down. There’s drawbacks to leaving devices on too; computers heat up more and more as they work and certain processes continue even when the device is asleep. Heat is detrimental for all components, and with computers left on you have a steady supply of it at varying moderate levels.

However, the heat and gear grinding that goes on with start up IS more detrimental long term. The exception to this would be with LCD panel displays if they weren’t timed out to go dark after certain timed period of inactivity. If they weren’t, leaving your computer on would be much more problematic – not to mention the nuisance of never-ending illumination of your workspace area.

Batteries and hard drives also have a limited life cycle. Allowing them to turn off (or sleep) and spin down when not being used will extend the life of these components, and especially if you’re only restarting the computer once or twice in a week if at all.

Even Better Reasoning

Some people will aim to refute this belief, stating that the very concept that shut downs and start ups make for damaging stress on components is a very dated way of looking at things. There are arguments to be made for both sides.

Reasons to leave it on

  • Using the PC as a server means you want to be able to remotely access it.
  • Background updates, virus scans, or other activities are welcome to go ahead while you’re away.
  • Long waits during start ups are unacceptable.

Reasons to turn it off

  • Conserving electricity and can slightly increase your power bill.
  • Wishing to not be disturbed by notifications or fan noise.
  • Rebooting does improve computer performance inherently

Having It Sleep, Or Hibernate?

Sleep puts a computer into a low power state without turning it completely off, while when hibernating your computer stops using power and resumes where it was when you put it in that mode. Overall, the consensus seems to be that sleep mode is preferable to hibernate because hibernate produces wear and tear that is similar to start and stop.

The recommendation is that if you’re going to leave it on all the time, make sure that you have the right sleep options set up in the Shut down menu. Saving a lot of power with no real downside becomes possible

Surge Protectors a Must

We’re going a little off topic here to wrap this up, but it really is worth relating the importance of using a surge protector between your computer and the wall outlet. Unless you actually like the idea of having expensive componentry fried by an electrical spike that arrives without warning, a surge protector is going to be a nice defense that hopefully you never need.

The best choice is to get an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which is basically a battery backed-up surge protector. These help condition power to even it out, and power spikes that can do irreparable damage to your computer’s components.

Lastly, keep your computer clean. Spend some time now and then to open it up and get rid of dust and debris. Uninstalls of old software and cleaning up old files and processes is recommended too.

The Final Decision

Here it is – if you use your computer more than once a day, leave it on at least all day. If you use it only briefly during the morning and at night, leaving it on overnight is probably best. Those who use their computer for only a few hours once a day or even less that should go ahead and turn it off when they’re done.

 

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