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Archive for May 20th, 2017

by Tom Nelson

Leave your computer on all the time, or shut it off when it’s not in use; does it really make a difference? If you’ve been asking yourself this question, then you’ll be happy to hear that you can choose whichever way you want. You just need to understand the ramifications of your choice, and take a few precautions to ensure you get the longest life you can from your computer.

The most important precaution is to add a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), no matter which method you choose.

A UPS can protect your computer from many of the dangers it’s likely to face.
The Things That Can Harm Your Computer

All of the parts that make up your computer have a limited lifetime. The processorRAM, and graphics cards all experience aging caused by, among other things, heat and temperature. Additional failure modes come from the stress of cycling a computer on and off.

But it’s not just your computer’s semiconductors that are affected. Mechanical components, such as the ones in hard drivesoptical drivesprinters, and scanners, are all affected by the power cycling they may undergo when your computer is turned off or on. In many cases, peripherals, such as printers and external drives, may have circuitry that senses when your computer is powered on or off, and initiates the same condition, turning the device on or off as needed.

There are other failure modes to consider that originate externally to your computer.

The one most often mentioned is a power surge and power drop, where there’s a sudden rise or fall in voltage on the electrical circuit that your computer is plugged into. We often associate these surges with transient events, such as nearby lightning strikes, or devices that use a lot of power at once (vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, etc).
All of these failure types need to be considered. Leaving a computer turned on can reduce exposure to some of the failure types, while turning your computer off can prevent most of the external vectors that can cause the failure of a computer’s components.

The question then becomes, which is best: on or off? Turns out, at least in my opinion, it’s a bit of both. If your goal is to maximize lifetime, there’s a time period when turning a new computer on and off makes sense; later, leaving it on 24/7 makes sense.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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