Picture of the Windows 10 desktop, showing the -Power- menu circled.

Power Off Computer Pros and Cons

As personal PC computer hobbyists, and tablet users, we ponder whether to turn off computers when not in use.  Indeed, we find many advantages as well as disadvantages to shutting down during off-hours.  So in this piece we summarize the power off computer pros and cons. We hope thus, that this information helps you will make the best choice for your situation.

Power Off Computer Pros and Cons Introduction

There’s no correct answer to the whole power off computer pros and cons question for every situations.  So each computer’s requirements given the specific environment as well as the type of computer involved, should be examined.  Think about the pros and cons of shutting down the computer in a certain scenario.  Then, weigh the priorities of each.  Finally, choose the best approach given your specifics.

On today’s tablet computers and laptops with their solid state drives, since most of then have no moving parts as well as highly efficient electronic components inside, it’s a rare case when one should be powered down when not being used; especially if you’re counting on it to notify you about upcoming events, or let you know when someone sends you a message on social networks.  On the other hand, for a desktop computer, that has numerous fans and spinning hard drives, powering down might make sense if you only access this machine a few times per month.

Picture of an HP laptop PC, downloading Windows updates after reboot. Power off computer pros and cons.
HP laptop PC, downloading Windows updates after reboot. Power off computer pros and cons.

Power Off Computer Pros and Cons: The Benefits, Pros, and Advantages

Reduced Wear on Internal Components

Less wear on internal fans when you power off a computer when not using it for long periods.  While this is not as big a deal today with fans that modulate their blade rotational speeds to the specific and notably dynamic cooling requirements of the computer, you should still consider the fans as probable failure points if over-worked. Fans often stall without your knowledge, which means that the computer could overheat and in the worst case, be destroyed.

Reduced Dust and Grime Buildup

Less dust build-up inside the machine on heat-sinks and other heat-generating components.  With the ventilation fans running less inside the computer when powered off, less air is sucked into it and then exhausted, which means less dust accumulation inside.

Lowers Energy Costs

If you only use your computer a few times per week or for a short time each day, then powering it down can save money.  A PC running for a 24-hour stretch unattended can consume as many as twelve to fifteen kilowatt hours.  In my neighborhood, this quantity of electricity might cost $1.60.  Monthly, this would run over $40.

Enhanced Computer Security

A box that is powered off during periods of inactivity is more secure than one that is constantly up and running.  While shut down, hackers typically cannot “break in” to the computer, as the parts that would support such an attack (hard drive, motherboard, and network cards) are not operating.  When powered on, on the other hand, and especially when it’s connected to the Internet or to other computers via WiFi or LAN, the running computer is more vulnerable to unwanted intrusions.  So if you must keep your PC powered on all the time, consider equipping it with anti-virus software, and that your network security is not any more lax than it needs to be (close all unused ports on firewalls, and keep that personal firewall software running at all times).

Less Susceptible to Power Surges

Computers that run all the time are less immune to voltage and current spikes traveling down the power lines at them from lightning storms or power outages and brown-outs.  While powered off, most of the fragile electronics inside are not connected to the power lines.  So, they would not be hit with a electricity surges that typically result when lightning storms pass by.  Powering down your computer when you do not need to use it helps protect it from these power anomalies.

Better Reliability when Fresh Booting

By turning on the computer only when you need it, you get a freshly-booted copy of the operating system (Windows, iOS, Android, or MacOS) each time.  Shutting down periodically clears all leaked memory, resource handles, and no-longer-needed network connections.  Starting the computer anew each time might therefore, give you a performance boost in addition to avoiding the pit falls listed above.

Power Off Computer Pros and Cons: The Cons, Problems, and Disadvantages

Takes Extra Time

It’s a pain to manually power off a computer too frequently.  In fact, this is why today’s machines offer sleep and hibernation features, that speed up both the processes of shutting down and restarting it.  Fortunately you can automate this task on many of today’s computers by activating these functions.  While these functions do not completely shut down the computer in many cases, they can nonetheless save significant electricity as well as wear and tear just the same.  So for the sake of convenience, leave it powered on, or at least, use the built-in power-management parameters that most PCs offer today to accomplish unattended shut down of idle components.

Can Excessively Stress Components

Frequent shutoffs takes its own toll (wear) on the computer components; namely thermal stress.  Each time you power the computer on, you force hard drives to spin up, components to warm, fans to come on, and so on.  Each power-on is harder on these components than leaving them run for a few hours at a stretch would be.  So if you must shut down your computer, try and minimize how often you do it throughout the day, because the more you power the computer on and off, the more likely it is that you will experience component failures due to this added wear.  However, admittedly, if you frequently buy a new machine, this added component risk of failure may not be of concern to you.

Automated Programs May not Run as Hoped

Particularly during night time hours, many anti-virus programs run in-depth scans of the hard drive(s), when the computer is idle.  System backups, database maintenance tasks, and monitoring operations also run overnight.  By powering off your computer before turning in, you eliminate this block of computer-idle time in which these programs can do their job most effectively.  So unless you specifically configure these apps to do their works during normal up hours, you may leave your computer more susceptible to infection; viruses that scans would catch if the computer was running overnight.  Or, your backup and database cleanup operations may never run.

Offline Streaming Media Boxes

If you have your music, movies, or documents stored on a home network server computer, then powering this machine down often creates excessive inconvenience when you take it into your mind to play your media on remote devices.  It’s true.  Tthe latest server architectures allow you to put the server to sleep.  Then it wakes up if another computer on the network calls it.  But powering off introduces nasty delays when you play a song.  Why?  Because you must wait for the server to “wake up” before your Pink Floyd starts streaming.

May Interfere with Off Hours Work

In offices where people often work day or night, it’s best to leave computers up 24 / 7.  Since we cannot predict when might work, we must assure that they can type stuff in right away.  They won’t want to wait for the computer to boot up. If you access your home or office computers more than a couple times per week, then let them run.

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References for Power Off Computer Pros and Cons: The Cons

Revision History

  • 2019-02-22: Added keyword targeting and pictures.
  • 2017-02-07: Revised the tags list, and improved the References section content.
  • 2015-11-22: Added appropriate tags.
  • 2014-11-20: Updated content, rearranged paragraphs for improved clarity, and fixed some typos.
  • 2012-08-14: Initially published this piece.