Today’s topic would surely cause some discussion amongst the Nerd Herd (see NBC’s Chuck for this reference) but we are pretty sure that they are not following us on Twitter, Facebook or this blog just yet. So, we can tackle the subject “should you leave your computer on or turn it off when you aren’t using it” in relative peace.
Most of you probably use your computer to check your email and surf the web, then you turn it off. I’m sure this stems directly from being yelled at as a child to turn the lights off when you leave the room or it could be the utter shock of opening a $400 electric bill during August in Texas. Either way, it is time to break those habits. We have a few things for you to think about. Here are the top reasons why you should leave your computer on all the time*:
1) The Little Yellow Shield – You might have seen this icon watching you from the system tray (bottom right-hand corner). You might even know that this is the way Windows tells you there is an important update. The truth is, most people ignore this shield because they don’t want to interrupt their time on the computer with these updates. BAD! These updates are critical to your system and your protection. Microsoft publishes these updates to keep your system running and to plug the holes in their security. If you skip them (updates) or wait too long, your system could be at serious risk.
2) Defragmentation – Your system can get bogged down by all the changes that are made to your computer. Installing, uninstalling, deleting…. Defragging regularly is a MUST (as we pointed out in our blog post Defragmentation: A Simple Task for a Huge Result). Running the defrag is another one of those tasks that people don’t want to do when they are ready to check email or surf the web.
3) Backups – Eventually, you will get around to backing up your system. Even better, we will eventually write a post on scheduling backups and why they are SO important. Once you get this implemented it will be just another one of those tasks that you don’t want to do when you are…. Yeah, you guessed it “checking your email and surfing the web.”
We gave you 3 good reasons here, but we really didn’t elaborate. How do these come into play. Well, it’s very simple. All of these tasks can be performed in the wee hours of the morning, when you are fast asleep, or at least trying to get there. With a few button clicks, each of these activities can be scheduled to happen at whatever time you want. Personally, I set all of them up to happen at 3am, when I know I will never be on the computer.
* Did you notice our friend the asterisk up there. To be completely fair, there are some warnings associated with leaving your computer on all the time. We would not be doing our job if we didn’t point them out.
1) Money $$$ – Running your PC all the time costs money. Depending on the size of your PC (laptop, desktop, tower) and the power supply in that PC, you could be paying anywhere from $6 a month to $30 a month to do this. However, you can offset the cost by setting your PC to sleep when you are not using it. Doing so will dramatically lower your power consumption, but still allow your computer to wake so it can perform the scheduled tasks.
2) Noise – Don’t forget to mute your speakers when walking away. You don’t want to wake up at 2am when you get a new email and your favorite audio notification comes blaring out of the speakers in the other room.
3) Restarting - You MUST restart your computer every so often. Important things happen when you restart. This is why most programs and updates force you to restart right after you complete the installation. We recommend that you restart at least once a day.
4) Closing programs - You should not leave programs open for long periods of time, when they are not in use. Doing so uses a lot of free memory on your PC and you might have trouble closing the program when you come back. The easiest thing to do is replace your old habit of turning the computer off with simply shutting down your open programs.
Don’t just take our word for it (although that would be easier), start this practice today and see how much better your system performs tomorrow. You’ll wake up, get your cup of coffee and sit down to check your email and surf the web, only to find that you don’t have to wait for your computer to boot up and it will be defragged, updated and ready to go.