What is Best for your Computer – Shutdown or Sleep?

What is best for your computer - powering off or sleep?

Many times we hear the same question – should I switch off my computer or just let it sleep? Some people believe you should shut down after every use to save wear and tear, others believe you should never shut down your computer – ever.

Others simply want to make sure the pages and apps they left open are still there waiting for them. So, who’s right and what are they really doing?

Back when computers were large and clunky boxes that took a long time to start, you’d probably get fed up with the person who shut it down when it was your turn to use it. If you have an older computer, maybe you still do. Modern computers actually have two options for their downtime: Shut down or sleep.

Shutting down

When it shuts down, the system goes through what is running and closes any open programs (often prompting you to save first), then gradually cuts power to all components. It’s a methodical process that seems quite fast to us but is actually made of 100+ intentionally ordered steps – we describe it as a kind of housekeeping.

However, if there’s a sudden blackout or you hold the power button until it turns off without going through the shutdown process, it means the steps aren’t followed and damage is possible.

Sleep option

The second option is to put your computer to sleep. This can be triggered by an automated timeout or a user click. Your system uses a special type of memory called RAM to hold all your running programs exactly as you left them but uses minimal power to do so. The hard drive stops spinning, the graphics card lets the screen go black, and even the system fan slows to become almost silent.

When you wake it by moving the mouse or pressing a key, it ‘wakes’ again almost instantly.

Reasons to Shut Down a Computer

A switched off computer isn’t drawing power which is good for the environment – but shutting down is about more than just saving power. It can sometimes give improved stability over a machine that’s been running for days/weeks. This is because every time you shut down, you give your computer a chance to clear out all temporary junk files it’s been carrying in memory. It also triggers various health checks on startup that may otherwise be missed, important routines like checking for updates or scanning for viruses. It’s certainly more convenient to spend an extra minute booting up than lose everything to a cyber-attack.

For older computers or those under heavy strain like gaming or video editing, shutting down also provides a necessary chance for the components to cool down.

Reasons to put a Computer in Sleep mode

Speed is the big selling point here. You can literally sit down and start working where you left off without the delays of bootup, finding your program, opening your saved files, scrolling down… it’s all right there and ready. You can even tell it how long to wait before putting itself into sleep mode, just in case you get called away and forget.

Windows updates still run in the background, so that’s okay, but it’s important to note that your computer might get stuck waiting for a reboot that never comes. Those pending updates may stack up, ineffective until it either forces a reboot or becomes unstable enough that you give in to a restart.

For example recently, when we went out to a computer repair in Gilmorton we found that the laptop had been kept in sleep mode every day for over a week. The system was very unstable and whilst it was a quick boot up every morning, problems were stacking up.

The best method is….

Since the whole point of having a computer is that it’s ready to work when you are, we recommend shutting down at night when it’s definitely not in use but using sleep mode during the day. Updates will get all the rebooting they need, memory is refreshed for the new day, and you’ll get the best of both worlds – speed and stability.

We can help your computer boot faster, give us a call on 01455 209505.