I just read an article in the newspaper (the newspaper!) about those evil, mean, nasty hackers who infiltrate your computer (this time through Windows file sharing) and use it for various purposes (storing files, distributed.net, etc.)

The article also implied this is happening more now with DSL and cable modem connections, becuase they're always on. Well, I've got news for you, bucko: If you don't leave your computer on all the time, the Internet connection isn't on all the time either. If you're a casual user who maybe uses their computer 1-2 hours a day, and isn't relying on it for any services, just turn the damn thing off, okay?

Some people think you should leave your computer on all the time, claiming things like component stress and the like. I say, feh. A computer burns about 100 watts if it's not in suspend mode (if it's in suspend mode, the components will stress powering back up, anyway.) That's 2400 watt-hours a day, or 2.4kwh. At 10 cents a Kwh, that's 25 cents a day, roughly, or about 7 or 8 dollars a month. Over the 3 year lifetime of your computer, you'll have spent over $200 trying to prevent the components from being stressed. You're basically taking the chance that any potential failure you'd get by turning it on and off is worth more than $200, and that leaving it on isn't itself a problem. I live in a house without air conditioning and if I left my machine on all the time in the summer it would definitely be damaging--much more so than the anecdotal "component stress". Buying an AC just to cool my computer when I'm not using it would be even more wasteful. And yes, I know conservation isn't in vogue unless you live in California right now, but do you really have the right to leave your computer on, causing utilities to have to build more polluting power plants in other people's backyards? You don't have to be a tree hugger to see the sensibilty of using less power so our electrical grid remains stable.

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't leave your computer on all the time if you're actually using it, as a home server, or for serious work, but I really think leaving it on all the time to run SETI@Home is stupid. And if you're a user who doesn't understand network security and has DSL or cable modem Internet access, you aren't cool enough to leave your computer on all the time. Besides, DSL isn't really always on if you're using PPPoE to connect--it's just like a regular dialup connection. And you probably don't have a static address either.

I guess I'm just mad at the assumption that you should leave your computer on all the time. For most people, there's no need. Only do it if you have a tangible reason; otherwise, save the energy, go out, take a walk, whatever.

YMMV, of course, but this is really a matter of personal preference, and circumstances. I have two computers, a Powermac G4, and a non-OEM K6-2/450 PC. I leave both of them on 24/7. First of all, the computers are in the basement, so the noise doesn't bother me when I go to sleep in my room upstairs. Of course, some people actually like the whirring sound. I slept in a room with a 24/7 computer for near a year and got quite used to it.

Yeah, it puts wear on your components, but really, is it that big of a deal? If you don't buy shoddy parts, they'll last. My Mac Quadra 700, purchased well over 6 years ago, turned on and off all the time, and eventually left on 24/7 for almost a year...and hey, it still runs fine!

I leave my G4 on all the time, as it runs SETI@Home and I just am impatient and don't like waiting for things to boot up. I also like to leave things open so I can come back them later, where I might have forgotten had I not left the computer on.

My PC has no monitor, it runs only FreeBSD and as such, I leave it on. This is partially because it was my first attempt at building a computer, and thus it's not entirely reliable. Sometimes it fails to detect one of the DIMMs on start up. Sometimes it refuses to even enter the BIOS and just makes a loud beeping noise. Basically, it's safer to leave it on than to risk rebooting it all the time. Plus, I like my l33t 60 day uptimes.

Use your computer the way you want to. Computers are hardier machines than most people believe, if they are understood properly. Any difference affected by turning it on and off, or just leaving it running, will be negligable in the scheme of things. And after all, chances are your computer will be obsolete within two or three years anyway, so you might as buy a new one. It's no big deal if the one you have now would die in five years with your current usage habits, since you won't be using it then anyway. Hopefully.

If you're running a server or an important networked computer, you basically don't have a say in this: it's on all the time, or you're out of business. But for the plucky end users who are curious as to the consequences of their power-saving/power-wasting decisions, here now is the ...

The Comprehensive List Of Pros And Cons To Having Your Computer On All The Time

PROS

  • Instant access - There's no need to wait through a boot process. Which means you can get your recommended daily servings of E2 and porn, with enough time left over to sip your overpriced cappuccino before heading off to sit in your car on the freeway for an hour.
  • Avoid wear and tear - Boot up. Shut down. Boot up. Shut down. Boot up. Shut down. Eventually all of that hot cold action is going to cause a meltdown. Horror stories of smoking power supplies, cacophonous ball bearings, and the Lovecraftian BIOS flatline ("The Computer That Ate Itself," coming soon to theaters near you!) could be avoided (albeit in a minor way) by leaving your computer constantly running.
  • Distributed projects - Did you know you could be using your computer to save the world? Or find another one altogether? With projects such as SETI@Home, Folding@Home, and the endless search for the largest prime number, you could be putting your processing power to good use, you selfish clod. A novel idea, and an interesting icebreaker at work.

CONS

  • Electricity Costs - HowStuffWorks.com provides the rough estimate that at a dime per kilowatt-hour, and assuming you use your computer 4 hours of the day, you're wasting $219 a year in electricity. With various power savings, you might cut that number in half, but that's still a C-note for your laziness.
  • Ecological Costs - Well, it certainly won't do much good for you to be testing out random protein folds with your hardware if the polar caps melt and destroy all humanity in two years, now, will it? 256 kindly pointed out that your electricity isn't just burning a hole in your pocket - it takes entropy to run that generator, and in the end, it's probably some environment-unfriendly process that's getting the juice to you. Possibly a paranoid argument, but conservation is a pretty noble goal.
  • Wearout - Sure, turning your computer on and off causes thermal stress, but leaving it on all the time can do just as much damage - particularly on monitors. Regardless of whether you turn the whole system off when not in use, turn off your monitor. It's that simple.
  • Power Spike - You're working hard on that worksheet for tomorrow's presentation and suddenly there's a flash behind you, a loud rumble, and your computer restarts itself. Only .. it freezes at the BIOS load up. Forever. A rare occurrence, but again - even taking proper precautions against this sort of thing is not foolproof.
  • Hacker's Delight - StrawberryFrog adheres to the ubersafe maxim "The only safe computer is a rock." If your computer is on, there is a possibility, however slight (though growing exponentially everyday thanks to botnets and spam kings), of it being used maliciously. Shutting down an inactive machine might just save you from becoming the next Taiwanese kiddie porn mirror host.
  • Noise - More of an aesthetic complaint, and certainly the least universal of the arguments, a CPU left on in the dead of night might just annoy you or your loved ones enough to keep them up at night. Cranky loved ones = spit in your overpriced cappuccino.
  • Memory Leakage - If you leave your computer on forever - and, you know, do stuff with it - eventually you'll have a memory leak that's drowning out your meager attempts to copy a phone number to Notepad. A simple restart solves the problem, but so does keeping the computer off when you're not using it.

So, in the end, we see the argument is pretty trivial in and of itself, and it boils down to two major arguments: economics and convenience. Sure, running your computer full time may give it an additional brain freeze or two, but hey! It'll be hopelessly obsolete within 18 months anyway, and it might be just as bad as the stop-start dynamics of rebooting on a regular basis. Worried about noise or memory leaks? Concerned that someone out there might not be donating their CPU for the good of mankind? Seriously, go lie down. You'll feel much better. But if you think being able to surf the web, play a game, write a paper, or listen to a song without having to wait 5 minutes is worth roughly 3 cents a day, then you've made up your mind. And if you're a penny-pinching curmudgeon or a poor college student looking to save a buck or two ... well, you can just use 1-800-CALL-ATT.

Sources:

  • http://computer.howstuffworks.com/question328.htm
  • http://www.blue-tree.co.uk/guides/power_supply_on_or_off.html

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