Ask Kurt: Can I leave my computer in sleep mode, or should I shut it down?

Considering the amount of time we spend on our computers today, it’s understandable that we rarely feel the need to shut them down completely and instead choose to put them in sleep mode.

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I’m sure you’ve heard that shutting down your computer too frequently could negatively affect its software and limit its lifespan. Or that leaving your computer on all the time also hurts its battery and performance, not to mention your electricity bill.

So, what should we believe, and what’s the right thing to do? Always shut your computer down when you’re not using it, or just constantly allow your computer to go into sleep mode?

Well, there is no simple right or wrong answer to this question.

Considering the amount of time we spend on our computers today, it’s understandable that we rarely feel the need to shut them down completely and instead choose to put them in sleep mode.
(Pixabay)

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What exactly is sleep mode?

While a computer is in sleep mode, it is conserving energy, namely turning off the display, hence why it goes to a black screen. However, for all intents and purposes, your computer is still on while in sleep mode, and several programs are still running.

How is shutting your computer down different from sleep mode?

When you shut down your computer, all its functions are turned off. None of the programs or applications you were previously using will be running or saved. So no software or programming is running, nor can any updates occur. As a result, when you need to use your computer again, you will need to fully restart it, which takes a few more minutes than merely waking your computer up from sleep mode.

Advantages of putting your computer in sleep mode

1. You can easily return to using your computer 

A simple click of your mouse, trackpad, touchpad, glide pad, or the power button will wake your computer from sleep mode, instantly returning you to all windows you left open.

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2. Several programs are still operating during sleep mode

While your computer appears not to be operational when in sleep mode, several programs can, and often are, actually running, including:

  • Virus Scan
  • System backups
  • Software updates
  • Disk cleanup.

It’s important to note that those programs do not run when your computer is shut down. Without the updates they provide, your device might become more susceptible to malware. Also, the heat produced by a sleeping machine exposes all components to higher heat more of the time. Computers left on all the time may have a shorter life.

Advantages of shutting down your computer

1. Saves money

Leaving your computer plugged in, even when it’s fully charged and turned off, uses electricity. However, it uses far less energy than if your computer is in sleep mode. It can save you roughly $50 a year on your electricity bill by turning it off.

2. Will not damage your device

Contrary to popular belief, shutting down your computer regularly will not harm your device. In the early days of computer technology, the inner parts were a little more susceptible to damage. It was recommended that you avoid shutting it down too frequently. Modern technology is more durable. In fact, shutting down your computer now and then helps its performance, as it allows the RAM and battery to get much more rest than during sleep mode. Also, a benefit to a regular shutdown is that your system may have fewer temporary issues.

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3. Reboot helps manage any system issues

The reboot that happens when you turn your computer back on will also help manage any system issues, such as eliminating any bugs or faulty network connections. These issues could increase when left in sleep mode, often slowing down your computer’s overall performance.

4. Protects your device in a power surge

Should your computer be in sleep mode during a power surge, it opens the possibility of:

  • Corrupted files
  • Damaged hard drive
  • Data loss.

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Shutting your computer down will greatly reduce the chances of the above from happening.  Also, power surges occurring when a machine is powered by its power adapter are more harmful to a sleeping computer than to one completely shut down.

Is one recommended more than the other?

Not necessarily. It all comes down to the time you’ll be away from your computer. If you just need to pop out to run an errand or grab a coffee and know that you’ll eventually need to get back on your computer, it’s best to let it go into sleep mode.

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However, at the end of the day, or if you know you’ll be away from your computer for an extended period of time, it is probably smart to shut it down and give it a bit of rest. Which will also help protect it in the event of a power surge.

Do you shut your computer down or just leave it in sleep mode when you’re not using it? We’d love to hear from you.

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