Do you ever turn your computer off?

Security_Sep02_CAsk yourself this quick question: At the end of the day, do you turn your computer off or simply stand up and leave? If you were to ask this question to 10 people, you would likely not get all of them to agree on which is the best method. This is actually a common question, but one which is not as simple to answer as you might think.

So, let’s take a look into whether you should shut your computer down at night or not. The first thing we should do is look at three myths that surround this topic.

Myth 1 – My computer is safe from power surges if I turn it off
If you live in an area that has an unstable power grid, or is prone to random blackouts, you may be worried about power surges. In truth, if one reaches your computer when it’s off, it will do almost exactly the same amount of damage as if it was on. Therefore, you should ensure that your computer is plugged into a surge protector, even if it’s switched off.

Myth 2 – Leaving a computer on will cause it to overheat
This isn’t quite true. Both laptops and desktops have fans and heat sinks that are designed to cool a computer efficiently while it operates. If your computer has a working fan, leaving it on overnight will not cause it to overheat. On the other hand, if the fan isn’t working properly there is a high chance it could overheat. In other words, if the fan isn’t working, you should get it fixed before damage is done.

Myth 3 – Turning a computer on and off, or leaving it on will cause parts to wear out quicker
In theory, this is actually true. When a computer runs, it gets hot – high end video cards can run as hot as 180 F – and when it is shut down, the parts cool quickly. Anyone with a basic understanding of science knows that many substances contract when cooled and expand when hot. Therefore turning your computer off and on will cause wear from expansion and contraction. .
Well, in truth, it really makes little difference. Think about other similar electronic devices like your monitor, TV or even phone. You no doubt turn these off and on all the time with no problem. Most computer components are designed for this too. In fact, many are designed to outlast the expected time you will use the computer. This means that the vast majority of people won’t notice a difference.

The truth behind these myths shows that there will be little outright harm to your computer if you turn it off, or leave it on. But the question about which is best to do still remains.

Reasons you should turn your computer off at night
There are four main reasons as to why you should turn your computer off at night:

  1. You can save money. Did you know that the average electricity bill to run a computer 24/7 for a year can be from USD$100 to USD$300? Multiply this by the number of computers in your company, and that can add up to a fair chunk of change. If the computers were to be turned off for the night, you could see your electricity bills drop drastically.
  2. It serves to refresh your computer. You may notice that if you leave your computer on for an extended period, it will start to get slower and slower, and more programs will crash. Restarting your computer serves to refresh it, making your programs run noticeably faster and with fewer errors. Turning your computer off at night is the same thing as a reboot.
  3. Important security updates will be installed. Most operating systems can be configured to download security updates while the computer is on, but usually require a system restart to fully install or update. Therefore, if you download updates, you can wait until the end of the day, turn your system off and when you turn it on in the morning, these will be installed.
  4. It minimizes the chances of security breaches. When you turn your system off at night, it will be disconnected from the Internet. That means if there are any worms infecting other systems, your system won’t be infected (as long as it remains switched off). Viruses or trojans trying to send information and data out of the network from your computer will also not be able to do so.

Reasons you should leave your system on at night
There are three main reasons as to why you would want to leave your system on at night:

  1. The computer can perform scheduled maintenance. Many programs like Antivirus, Windows updates and Defrag can be scheduled to run/scan when you aren’t using your system – which is at night, most of the time.
  2. You work with network administrators. If you work with network administrators or an IT Partner who uses the time when you aren’t in the office to install updates, run scans and perform maintenance, you will likely be asked to leave your computers on at night.
  3. Your computer acts as a server. If you use software to access your computer from home, some require that the computer be switched on. Therefore you would need to leave it on. The same can be said if your machine works as a server – say file host or Web server. It will need to be on 24/7.

So, which is better?
In truth, it really comes down to preference and how you work. If you work with an IT partner who manages your systems, it is a good idea to ask them what they would recommend.

If you just use the computer while you are at work, or are worried about potential security threats, then you can probably shut it down at the end of the day. That being said, if you do shut your system down, it is a good idea to run security scans on a regular basis while your system is on to ensure maximum protection.

At the same time, if you leave your system on, it is a good idea to periodically reboot it so important security and program updates can be installed and your computer can be refreshed.

Still not too sure what you should be doing? Why not give us a call to see how we can help keep your systems running and secure.

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