Should I Turn Off My Computer (Most commonly asked question)

(Grammar Corrections By Evan J.)

One of the most common questions a customer asks me is: “Should I leave my computer on all the night or shut it off?”

The quick answer: Turn it off.

Now here is why. When I first got into computers I was taught the best thing for a system is to leave it on. That's why you hear so many techs tell their customers that. But no one ever asks why. Well I did, and here is the background story of why from where I learned it.

When computers were first hitting the market, a computer would cost anywhere from $3000 to $4000+. They had a life span of about 8+ years. Well every time you turned on a computer that first jolt of electricity would wear down the components inside. Thus, instead of the system lasting 8+ years, it would only last for 3 - 5 years. And at $4000+ leaving it on made a lot of sence!

Well times have changed, hardware has changed, and cost has really changed! It just doesn't make sense to leave a system on if it will be left, unattended, for more than an hour.

When systems are so much cheaper and hardware has been improved upon, all you’re doing is raising your electric bill and wearing out a system that's not even being used.

So, unless you are running a server or have a good reason to leave the system on 24/7, turn it off. You will save money on your power bill, help out the environment, and your system will last a little longer since it’s not being used. The worse I've seen is a customer who loved having the 3d fish screen saver on. She left town for 2 weeks, left her computer on (never went into standby) and the screen saver, using 100% cpu and pushing the video card to the limit for 2 weeks straight, ran the whole time.

Anyways, it is up to you on what to do, but with the cost of everything today, leaving a computer on when you don't need it is just not worth it.

I was taught about the components wearing out a long time ago, and in the 17 years I have been in computers no one could tell me which components.

I had a user email me and give me more details on exactly what was happening and why it doesn't happen any more, and why leaving your computer on all the time doesn't extend its life. Thanks for the details Guy!

From Guy:
"I read the article “Should I turn off my computer”. I agree with everything you wrote except your reasoning “Well every time you turned on a computer that first jolt of electricity would wear down the components inside.” Back in the early and mid 1980’s most motherboards were constructed differently using numerous integrated circuit chips that were pushed into sockets. These ICs were the kind with little metal legs extending from them. The sockets themselves were soldered to the motherboard. A Google Image search of “ic” and “ic socket” will show what they look like.

When the pc was turned on the circuits would warm up, and when turned off the circuits would cool down. The contraction and expansion caused between the circuit legs and the metal connectors in the sockets would create a situation where the chip could slowly “creep” out of its socket This caused circuit failure and possible damage. The effect was enhanced as the ambient temperature spread increased between day and night. This led to the term “chip creep”.

When the tech people figured out the problem they would usually push on the chips to reseat them any time they had a pc open. Customers wanted a work around against repeated repairs just to push in ICs, so the techs would suggest leaving the computer on all of the time. This reduced chip creep to almost nothing. Over time this became one of those things that everyone “knew” they should do, but didn’t know why. As time went by (the 90’s) the circuit manufacturers miniaturized allowing more and more to be put on the motherboards and doing away with peripheral cards. Since sockets were no longer needed there was no longer any reason to leave the pc on. These days the only component affected by a heavy on/off cycle would be the power supply, but even they hold up much better than way back when due to design improvements."