Which Is Better: Shutting Off Your PC or Putting It to Sleep?

Shutting down your PC versus putting it to sleep has been a long-debated subject. Some argue that turning a computer on and off too many times will damage the components which decreases the overall lifespan. Others say that putting a computer to sleep is a waste of electricity, especially if left unused for an extended period of time.

So who’s right in this matter?

In this article we’ll explore the pros and cons of these options to decide which is better for your computer.

A shutdown is like an off switch to software and hardware components. All opened programs receive a timed notification from the OS to stop reading and writing files before a forced shutdown occurs.

Shutdown signals are then sent to the remaining devices and drivers, slowly cutting power little by little.

However, if you force a computer to shut down by holding the power button, you’ll risk file corruption and potential damage to the hard drive.

Think of sleep mode as a way for your computer to take a nap.

powermode-sleepmode

All open files are stored in the RAM (random access memory) which runs in a low-power state.

Most other software and hardware components are also disabled during this time but can be quickly “woken up” by tapping on the mouse or keyboard.

Stress on Hardware Components

This is arguably one of the biggest factors in the Shutdown versus Sleep Mode debate.

Back in the day, computer components were a little more susceptible to possible damage from consistently powering the computer on and off, most notably with the hard drive and fans.

powermode-hardware

Nowadays, these parts are manufactured better, so they are able to withstand this kind of stress (both from sleep mode and a shutdown state) to a certain degree.

Unless you are constantly powering your PC on and off like a toy, the wear and tear from a daily shutdown is very minimal and won’t cause noticeable damage.

Power Consumption

Sleep mode draws power to the RAM to store opened files and programs. This means an increase in electricity usage which some consider to be a wasted resource since the computer isn’t being used during this time.

While a PC still draws a little bit of power when shut down (unless it’s unplugged from the power source), it still remains a better energy-saving option.

Clean Reboots

Think of this as a way for the OS to clean itself out.

powermode-reboot

Shutdowns clean out minor system issues like bugs, leaked memory, and unused network connections. Also, Windows runs its update in the background and some of these updates require a reboot.

If you never power off (or reboot) your computer, all of these issues snowball and may cause a decrease in performance and load times.

Power Surges

Although it’s rare, random power spikes and surges can damage your computer when powered on or in sleep mode.

Major damage includes file corruption, a scratched hard drive, and data loss, which can all lead to an unbootable computer.

A shutdown lowers the risk of this type of damage happening to the components.

If your computer is in sleep mode, it can quickly be woken up with a tap of the mouse or keyboard.

powermode-convenience

Powering a computer on from a shutdown state requires extra time waiting for it to boot and load all of the necessary files (although this can be expedited with an SSD card). This can be seen as an inconvenience to those who frequently use a computer throughout the day, as a lot of time is lost waiting for a computer to boot up.

Background Maintenance Programs

Your computer runs important maintenance programs in the background like virus scans, disk cleanup, and system backups, particularly during evening hours (while your computer is in sleep mode).

Unless you schedule these tasks to be done during daytime hours, shutting off your computer may interfere with these necessary programs, which may leave your computer more susceptible to malware.

Considering the above factors, it’s better to shut down your computer during an extended period of time (such as overnight) and put it in sleep mode during shorter periods of time (such as throughout the day).

In other words, leveraging a combination of both is ideal for the longevity of your computer. You will get the daily benefits of a clean reboot with less power consumption when you only use your computer when you need it. The risk of a power surge is also lowered, and background maintenance programs can still run normally throughout the day with a nightly shutdown. More importantly, you don’t need to worry about potential damage to hardware, especially since computer parts are manufactured better (just don’t constantly power your PC on and off like a toy).

Image Credit: Derek Σωκράτης Finch, John Mitchell, Ryan Franklin, Eric Norris, Steven Lilley

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