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Is it Better to Shut Off Your Computer, or Just Put it to Sleep?

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It’s the end of the day, and you’re faced with a dilemma - shut down your workstation, or simply put it to sleep for the night? This is a topic that is debated quite often. We’ll compare the positive and negative aspects of both approaches to identify which is the better option.

Understanding Shutdown and Sleep Mode
In order to better grasp the effects that each approach has, it helps to ensure that there is a clear comprehension of what actually happens during each.

When a computer is instructed to shut down, it starts with any software that is in use before moving on to the actual hardware involved. The operating system sends out a notification to any open programs to stop reading and writing files in preparation for the hardware to power down. Once this is accomplished, signals are sent to the physical components to gradually cut power. This keeps the components safe from damage, which is also why you shouldn’t power down your computer by just holding the power button.

When a computer is placed in sleep mode, its RAM stores any files that are open and runs in a low-power state, while other pieces of software and hardware are temporarily disabled, able to be reactivated at any time.

Each of these methods have their benefits, as well as their drawbacks, that need to be considered.

The Benefits of a Full Shutdown
Shutting your computer down completely has a few benefits to take advantage of, the first of which being the fact that a shutdown gives your operating system a chance to flush out minor system issues. These issues would otherwise accumulate and cause greater problems down the line. Furthermore, many updates to Windows require the computer to be restarted before they can take effect.

There are also power concerns that are reduced by shutting down your computer completely. As one might imagine, a PC draws considerably less power when it is off than when it is on - even if it happens to be in sleep mode. There is also the slim (but still present) chance of a power surge damaging a computer that has been left on, a chance that a complete shutdown reduces.

The Benefits of Sleep Mode
First and foremost, the biggest advantage of leaving your computer in sleep mode is clearly the convenience it offers when the time comes to use it again. While the time spent waiting for a computer to turn on may not seem like much on a per-case basis, it adds up quickly and takes away from your overall productivity. As a result, it helps that (rather than waiting for the entire system to turn on) a single keystroke is all it takes to return to full function.

On the more technical side of things, leaving your computer in sleep mode gives it the opportunity to run some basic maintenance, maintenance that your computer needs to remain secure, and maintenance that can’t be completed when the computer’s off.

Why Not Both?
Taking all of this into consideration, it makes the most sense to utilize a combination of the two methods by putting your computer to sleep when you walk away from it throughout the day and powering it down overnight. This way, you get the convenience of quick access during active work hours, with safety precautions in place when it isn’t in use during off hours.

Another consideration would be if you have security updates and patches being performed during non-peak hours. If your strategy is to automate these tasks to avoid downtime altogether, having your staff keep their computers on may be advantageous.

Which do you typically do? Let us know in the comments, and make sure you subscribe to be notified whenever Netcotech posts a new blog!

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