File Management, User Care and Common Sense
Should I leave my computer on all the time?
I'd have to say that's the Most Frequently Asked Question that I hear. It's the same today as it was 10 years ago.
My answer, in a word, NO!
The original thought behind leaving a computer on is definitely not unfounded. The continual expansion and contraction of the components, due to heating and cooling as the machine is turned on and off, could shorten the life of that component, as well as cause several other, related problems.
Memory modules, expansion cards, even the CPU itself, have been known to creep out of their sockets. I've also read that solder connections can possibly crack, resulting in undependable circuits or shorts, although I've never seen anything that I could positively attribute to this.
Well, computer components have become hardier over the years, solder has become more pliable, expansion cards are screwed in, and components such as memory modules (and even CPUs) clip into their sockets on the motherboard to prevent them from creeping out. The problem is still there. Components can creep out of their sockets and connections can be compromised, and that's why we're going to check those things later. But, it's no reason to leave your computer running all the time. In fact, your components are probably safer if you shut the computer down when not in use.
So this is where the 'common sense' part comes in. If you're going to the bathroom, leave your computer on! If you have to stop for lunch, but intend to work on the computer afterwards, leave it on.
But, if you're going shopping and won't be back for 3 or 4 hours, shut it off! If you're going to bed for the night, shut it off (unless you have some automatic maintenance scheduled for that evening).
However you decide to manage the situation, it is important, ...and imperative, that you shut your computer off periodically.
1) A lot of things you do on your computer such as installing new devices or programs, configuration settings, file changes, additions or deletions to the Registry and other configuration files, don't take effect until you restart your computer.
2) Programs need a certain amount of memory to operate, and this is allocated when the program is started. That memory, and any other resource required by the program, is not available again until the program closes and releases those resources.
Some programs, no matter how big the company name, or how popular, or how expensive, may have a glitch or a bug that will prevent the resources from being released properly. Thus your available resources may become depleted and you'll see memory errors or illegal operation errors start to pop up. Turning off your computer will clear memory and reallocate resources upon startup again.
When I say turn it off, I mean right off! Don't just perform a warm boot. And, when you shut it off, be sure to leave it off for a minute or so.
First off, you want to allow time for your drives to spin down. Secondly, memory is getting better and better all the time. Sometimes, memory may not be completely cleared with a simple warm boot.
3)Computers are constantly sucking air through them to cool down components. At the same time, they're pulling dust, dead skin, cat or dog hair, smoke particles, fluff and dust balls inside the case, and depositing them on the components. This has a tendency to insulate the components and add to the heat build up, and overheating can have a very detrimental effect on your computer's components. Leaving your computer on all the time will only add to the amount of debris collected inside.
4) The power supply fan that pulls the air through your computer is not infallible. These fans, and the power supplies, are not an uncommon replacement. If one should fail when you've left your computer on overnight (or at the office, over the weekend) then the computer will overheat and could cause irreversible damage to some of the major components.
5) If you do get an illegal operation error, or a program freezes up on you, it's nice that Windows allows you to shut down the offending program and continue on with your work. The problem is however, that by clicking on 'end task', you've shut the program down prematurely. It hasn't released its resources properly, and may even have written temporary files to the hard drive that it won't be able to clean up. If you continue to use your computer, without shutting it down and allowing it to clear it's memory and reallocate resources, you'll probably run into more trouble and see more error messages.
If you see this kind of problem, and do somehow get the program shut down, you should close out of Windows and shut your computer off. Wait a minute or so before turning it back on.
(continued... Next - Always close Windows before turning your computer off)