Although PCs benefit from an occasional reboot, it’s not necessary to turn off your computer every night. Regular shutdowns can save energy and maintain performance, but if convenience is key, you can opt for occasional shutdowns.

The decision to let your computer sleep vs. shut down depends on considerations such as the device’s age, your usage habits, and whether you have antivirus software installed and automated updates enabled.

In a recent survey of 1,000 Americans, we discovered that 37% shut down their work computers every night. So, sleep or shut down your PC which should you choose? Read on to find out, then jump to the flowchart for more context.

Shutdown vs. Sleep: What Is the Difference?

When you shut down your computer, it undergoes a complete power-off sequence, effectively halting all active processes. (Make sure you save your ongoing tasks!) When you restart the computer, it initiates a full boot-up process for the operating system and reloads all necessary components.

On the other hand, sleep mode is a low-power state where the computer suspends all current activities. Sleeping computers maintain a minimal power level to preserve the current state of open applications and data. When you awaken the computer from sleep mode, it swiftly resumes its operations from where it left off, offering a faster transition compared to a full restart.

Shutting down your computer is optimal for prolonged periods of inactivity or permanent power-off situations such as as long-term storage or discontinuation of use to preserve energy and ensure a fresh start when needed. Sleep mode is more suitable for short breaks, allowing a swift return to your computer without the need to restart everything.

Reasons to Turn Computers Off

50% people shut down their computer at least once per weekLet’s talk about why it’s worth turning off your computer. From saving energy to boosting performance, we’ll look at some reasons shutting down your device may be a valuable practice.

  • You’re in public or on an unsecured network and are worried about unauthorized access and potential security breaches.
  • You want to slightly save on your electricity or power bill.
  • You don’t want to be disturbed by notifications, fan noise, or blue light.
  • You want to slow the wear of components, like the cooling fan and hard disk.
  • You perceive value in the charge cycle of your battery. When you shut down your computer, especially if it’s plugged in, it helps reduce the frequency of charge cycles, as the battery is not being used and recharged continuously.
  • You have a new computer and you want to find any faulty hardware while it’s under warranty. A full reboot tests hardware components, making it easier to detect and address issues covered by a warranty before it expires.

Reasons to Leave Your Computer On

Some believe leaving the computer on all the time helps it last longer. Let’s review when it is ideal to leave your computer in sleep mode.

23% of people never shut down their computer

  • You’re a business operating a web server.
  • You want to access your computer remotely.
  • You want to run background updates, virus scans, backups, or other activities while you’re not using your computer.
  • You never want to wait for the PC to start up.
  • You have an old computer and you want to extend the lifespan.
  • You run an old operating system.

Alternatives to Turning Computers Off

A full shutdown on your machine means that everything is powered down and the internal components are no longer running. When stepping away from the computer for a short time, a full shutdown can be excessive. Here is what you can do instead:

  • Hibernate mode: Opt for hibernate mode to save the current state and power off reducing energy consumption without fully shutting down.
  • Scheduled power plans: Set up scheduled power plans to automatically adjust the computer’s power state based on usage patterns.
  • Remote access: Use remote access tools to control or wake up the computer without physically turning it off.

Why Does It Matter If I Turn My Computer Off?

Although PCs benefit from an occasional reboot, it’s not necessary to turn off your computer every night. The right decision is determined by the usage of the computer and concerns with longevity.

Bathtub curve showing computer lifecycle

The bathtub curve for a computer’s lifespan visualizes three phases. In the initial phase, there’s a higher likelihood of issues such as manufacturing defects or early system failures. Once past the initial phase, the curve levels out, representing a period of stability where the computer operates without significant problems. As time progresses, the curve starts rising again, symbolizing an increased likelihood of issues as the computer ages. 

Putting your computer to sleep regularly instead of shutting it down may contribute to a more extended stable period. An occasional shutdown can be beneficial to clear out temporary files, refresh the system and allow necessary updates. 

In essence, the choice between sleep and shutdown can influence how your computer experiences the different phases of the bathtub curve throughout its lifespan.

What Are Some Key Considerations for a PC Power-Down Routine?

When establishing a PC power-down routine, several key considerations ensure optimal performance and longevity.

  • Age of the computer: The highest probability of component failure happens when the device is new and again at the end of its lifecycle, in line with the bathtub curve. Theoretically, that means it’s best to turn new computers off regularly and keep older ones on.
  • Usage: If you need remote access to your computer or use it as a server, keep the device on to avoid interruption. If sensitive information is stored on the PC, however, consider turning it off to disconnect from the internet and possible cyberattacks.
  • Concern for wear and tear: The lifespan of the cooling fan and hard drive will be reduced, albeit minimally if it’s left on. If the longevity of your computer is the main concern, power it off once per day.
  • Frequency of automated tasks: Automated tasks such as scans, updates, and backups can’t take place when the computer is turned off. If you schedule automated tasks, consider leaving the machine on.

Computer Care FAQ and Tips

Increase the overall lifespan of your computer by taking precautions like avoiding physical damage, restarting the device occasionally, keeping it cool and clean, updating frequently, and investing in a surge protector.

Tips for proper computer care

Is It Good to Leave Your PC on 24/7?

Leaving your PC on 24/7 is not recommended. It can contribute to unnecessary wear on components, higher energy consumption and potential overheating. Shutting it down when not in use is a more efficient and protective practice.

Is It Bad to Shut Down Your Computer Every Night?

A frequently used computer that needs to be shut down regularly should only be powered off, at most, once per day. When computers boot from being powered off, there’s a surge of power. Doing so frequently throughout the day can decrease the lifespan of the PC. The best time for a full shutdown is when the computer won’t be in use for an extended period.

Does Leaving Your Computer on Damage It?

Leaving your computer on does little damage to modern computers. However, when the computer is on, the fan is working to cool the machine’s components. When it’s running consistently, it will shorten its lifespan slightly. Additionally, external incidents like dropping the device or unexpected power surges while the computer is on can cause significant hardware damage or preventable data loss.

Tips on how to extend your computer's lifespan

Should you shut down your PC? The reality is that the optimal approach varies for each computer user — with factors such as usage patterns, hardware age and personal preferences playing crucial roles. 

While shutting down your computer can’t shield it from all potential issues, it remains a valuable practice for energy conservation and system optimization. Remember, every computer is unique, and finding the right balance between shutdowns and uptime is key. 

For continuous protection day and night, investing in reliable antivirus software is a proactive step to safeguard your computer.

Methodology: This study was conducted for Panda Security using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in May 2020.