Should you leave your computer on overnight? It all depends upon the specific use of the computer and the nature of tasks being performed on it. For example, if the computer is being used for the processes like taking backups, scanning disks, defragmentation or for some other scanning processes, then leaving the computer on during those nights would be a definite “yes”. However, if the the computer is used frequently, perhaps with some intervals of non-use, then the system should probably be set to “sleep” automatically after a certain period of idleness. The “sleep” settings can be adjusted for a light or deep slumber to occur to match your exact needs and personal experience. A “light” slumber, a.k.a. “sleep” in Windows, puts your computer in a low-power state where it’s almost immediately ready to use when you need to get back to work (it wakes up quickly). The “deep” slumber, a.k.a. “hibernate mode” in Windows, puts your computer in the lowest-power state, but it takes longer to get back to work when you wake it up from “hibernation”.
Since it depends on your own circumstances, here are the pros and cons of leaving your computer on overnight to consider:
Pros of leaving your computer on overnight:
- Skipping the boot process gives you an instant access to the applications you want to use on your computer the next day.
- If your antivirus program is configured to scan overnight, or other automated tasks are scheduled, then your computer will receive the regular maintenance that it needs.
- Keeping your computer on avoids the wear and tear of components associated with heat-up and cool-down.
Cons of leaving your computer on overnight:
- If your computer is being used for some business purposes or contains important or private data, then leaving your computer on exposes it to additional risk from bad guys: generally, today’s computers are always connected to the Internet, which means increased exposure to hackers and malicious software like computer worms.
- Most of the latest computers built today include an option for sleep mode, but Sleep mode on computers still uses some electricity, and the most economic thing to do is to turn off the computer at night. Some older computers don’t have option for sleep mode, so if you have an older computer you should turn it off to save the electricity cost. When computer is being set to sleep mode (on Standby or Hibernate), electricity consumption goes down to about 1/10th of its normal use – about 0-6 watts. This is a good option (second to shutting it off of course) to save power (and money).
- Some of the computer programs becomes less prone to crashes if the computer system is rebooted when the computer is turned on again in the morning. Windows is an example of such computer programs called “operating systems”. Most home computers use Windows. Thus, your computer is more likely to crash if always left on.
- If a fan running inside the system dies, some of the major hardware components like processor or motherboard chip can get very warm inside, resulting in damage like crashes and data loss. The pc may smoke and stink up the house if your power supply goes bad overnight. Thus, an unmonitored computer presents additional fire and data loss risk. Monitors are also vulnerable to fires in some cases which can further cause problems as there is a lot of burnable material around the pc.
- Since some of the components like case fans inside the computer have limited lifespans, leaving your pc on overnight may reduce the life of those components more so than other components that do better when you leave the computer on.
How much electricity does my computer use? Desktop computer systems are generally labeled with electricity usage of around 300 watts max (which is not applicable most of the time). On average, these computers regularly consume about 60 – 70 watts when being used in a typical manner. When a particular computer switches to sleep mode (aka “standby”, “hibernate”) the electricity uses goes down to 0-12 watts.
Almost all of the latest computers can be set to sleep automatically after a certain amount of idle time which saves energy during the times when not a single process is running on the computer system and is completely idle. It is also the best and easiest way to save on computer energy use.
How to Save Power Automatically: Setting the computer to auto sleep mode:
- If you have Windows XP : Go to Start > Control Panel > Power Options. Learn more about Windows power options here.
- If you have a Mac : Go to System Preferences > Energy Saver. Learn more about Energy Saver options here.
In conclusion, the tradeoffs make it better for some to leave their computer on, and better for others to turn their computer off at night. If you are concerned about power usage, then you should look into the energy saver options. For many, leaving the computer on at night vs turning it off is a wash. Consider that it takes your time (and patience) to power up and down the computer with each power cycle, and that it might not be cost effective to cycle the computer’s power more than once a day. If your computer is scheduled to perform tasks like virus removals or defragmentations on a regular schedule, then you should leave your computer on during those nights when the routine maintenance is performed. If the environment is a primary concern, then you will probably save the most energy by making use of sleep mode, and turning off your computer over night. The tradeoff will be a slower access to your computer.