Is It Better to Shut Down Desktop Computers or Let Them Sleep?

The end of workday is near and your employees are about to leave for the day. Is it better to have them shut down their desktop computers or simply let the machines slip into sleep mode? This question has been the subject of debate for many years. If you search the Internet, you will find discussions supporting both practices. So, which practice should your business follow? To answer this question, you need to know some facts as well as the benefits of each practice.

Just the Facts

When the shut down versus sleep debate first started, desktop computers were not as advanced as they are today. Technological improvements have eliminated many of the arguments used by debaters on both sides of the issue. Here are the facts when it comes to modern desktop computers:

  • Shutting down and restarting a computer every day will not damage it. Modern computers are built to handle 40,000 on-off cycles before failure, according to ENERGY STAR. If your employees shut down and restart their computers once a day every day, their machines will not reach the 40,000 threshold for 109 years.
  • The extra electricity used when you press a computer’s power button is negligible. It is so tiny that it does not cost any extra money, according to the Saving Electricity website.
  • Leaving a computer on all the time will not cause it to overheat. The cooling systems are designed to keep the machines at a safe operating temperature, no matter how long they are left on, provided they are kept clean and air can flow around them. Dust and blocked air vents are the main causes of computers overheating.
  • Letting a computer run nonstop will not cause its hard drive or fans to fail. Although it will cause a bit more wear because they are moving parts, there is no conclusive proof that this leads to failures.
  • Turning off a computer will not protect it from power surges. If a computer is not plugged into a surge protector, a power surge can damage a computer, regardless of whether it is turned on or off. (Even with a surge protector, a computer is not completely safe if the surge is large.)

Knowing these facts simplifies the shutdown versus sleep debate. They are moot points, so you do not have to consider them when deciding whether to have your employees shut down their computers or let them go into sleep mode.

The Benefits of Shutting Down Desktop Computers

Shutting down desktop computers at the end of the day has several benefits, one of which is that you can reduce energy consumption. The amount saved will vary, depending on a variety of factors. They include the make, model, and performance of your computers; whether they are ENERGY STAR certified; and how many you have. According to the Savings Calculator for ENERGY STAR Qualified Office Equipment, medium-performance desktop computers that are ENERGY STAR certified consume 0.8 watts per hour when shut down and 1.8 watts in sleep mode. The calculator also provides a ballpark figure for their non-certified counterparts: 1.0 watts when shut down and 2.3 watts in sleep mode. So, you can save energy by shutting down computers instead of letting them sleep, although the amount saved per computer is only around a watt per hour in modern machines.

Another benefit of shutting down computers is that rebooting them at the beginning of each workday gives them a fresh start. When a computer is powered on for a long period of time, its operating system and applications tend to accumulate all sorts of cruft (e.g., temporary files, disk caches). Cruft can slow down the computer and cause other types of problems. Rebooting the computer resolves these issues. As a result, the computer will typically run more quickly and with fewer errors.

The Benefits of Using the Sleep Mode

Letting desktop computers slip into sleep mode at the end of the workday offers several advantages. First, it saves time. When computers are turned off, employees need to wait for their computers to reboot, after which they need to open all the applications they want to use. With sleep mode, employees do not need to wait for their computers to reboot. Plus, all the applications they had opened when they left work will be running and ready to use. This can boost employee productivity.

Another advantage of using the sleep mode is that you can often schedule operating system maintenance tasks (e.g., security scans, software updates) to be performed during off-hours, without the hassle of using Wake on LAN technology. When the scheduled time arrives, the computer will wake itself up and perform the maintenance task. Similarly, IT service professionals can use a remote connection to wake up computers during off-hours, without any WOL hassles. They can then perform maintenance tasks (e.g., application updates), roll out upgrades, and fix computer problems.

Which Practice Should Your Business Follow?

Even though the technological advances in modern computers have eliminated many of the points of contention, the shutdown versus sleep mode debate continues. But the bottom line is that one practice is not inherently better than the other. It is simply a matter of preference. So, when deciding whether to have your employees shut down their desktop computers or let them go into sleep mode, you should consider what is best for your business. For instance, if you have a lot of computers and are concerned about energy consumption, have the employees shut them down. If IT service professionals need easy access to your computers during off-hours or you are concerned about employee productivity, let the machines slip quietly into sleep mode at the end of the workday.