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
- 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.
- 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.