Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

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poochyena
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Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby poochyena » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:05 am UTC

So many people i know just leave their computer on 24/7.. isn't this very bad for the computer? lowers life-span, uses extra electricity(therefore, more money), memory leaks, software misbehavior ect.

or does leaving it on not effect the computer in a bad way at all?

maybe its just me, but i cringe when people tell me they leave their computer on 24/7, especially when they say they leave it on 24/7 because "it takes so long to boot up!". Thats just alot to sacrifice to just not have to wait 30seconds for your computer to boot up...

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Jorpho » Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:38 am UTC

For one thing, some people let their computers go into various flavors of Sleep mode, which in some cases can be practically the same as being shut off.

Arguably, power-cycling your computer (i.e. turning it off and on again) frequently can put a considerable strain on the components in itself – quite possibly more than just leaving it running constantly. But I admit to being ignorant of the details.

Windows 95 and 98 (but not 98SE) would indeed crash after being left running for 49.7 days, but of course those were kind of unstable at the best of times and modern versions should in theory be able to run indefinitely.

I leave my computers running all the time mostly because I don't want to have to save everything and then re-open everything again each day. Also, the electric bill is included in the rent.

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby EvanED » Thu Dec 05, 2013 6:38 am UTC

I agree with what Jorpho said. It may depend on how much you use it during the day -- if you use it a ton (e.g. work from home), then turning it off at night might only reduce "on" time by only 30 or 40%. If you use it for a few hours in the evening, then it might be on for only 30% of the time.

Software doesn't generally have a problem with it. I used to leave it on 24/7 (mostly so I would be continuously available on IM programs) and most of my reboots were caused by software updates anyway.

As for electricity, computers don't take all that much. I estimate one computer at about $15/month, so it's not an enormous cost either way. Especially if you have to heat in the winter -- then your computer is 100% efficient at doing something useful. :-) (Maybe not in the most $-efficient way, but still.)

Jorpho wrote:I leave my computers running all the time mostly because I don't want to have to save everything and then re-open everything again each day.
That's why I hibernate. :-)

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Jplus » Thu Dec 05, 2013 10:09 am UTC

As always, the complete answer is "it depends". As you said, some software may have memory leaks, causing it to accumulate memory over time and thus gradually slow down your computer. That should only be a matter of restarting the offending programs, no need to restart the entire computer. Current mainstream OSs tend to not have memory leaks, often because the software is already very mature and otherwise because it gets fixed very quickly.

The hardware wears down (a little) from cycling through poweron and poweroff, NOT from running -- except if something inside is overheating, but then that's the problem you should attempt to solve. Even hard disks, which contain moving parts and tend to be the least reliable components of a computer, seem not to be limited by the number of spinning hours; IIRC Google did some statistics on their own hard disk use and found no correlation between intensity of use and lifespan.

Of course, energy consumption is still a good reason to shut down a computer.
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Adam H
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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Adam H » Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:09 pm UTC

poochyena wrote:maybe its just me, but i cringe when people tell me they leave their computer on 24/7, especially when they say they leave it on 24/7 because "it takes so long to boot up!". Thats just alot to sacrifice to just not have to wait 30seconds for your computer to boot up...

Just want to point out that it can easily take 5-10 minutes to boot up an older computer. So take your outrage and tone it down by a factor of 20, please. ;)
-Adam

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby cphite » Thu Dec 05, 2013 10:32 pm UTC

poochyena wrote:So many people i know just leave their computer on 24/7.. isn't this very bad for the computer? lowers life-span, uses extra electricity(therefore, more money), memory leaks, software misbehavior ect.

or does leaving it on not effect the computer in a bad way at all?



The amount of electricity you're using is increased, but not by a whole lot. At idle, the average desktop uses under 100 watts - laptops generally less than that. So it's basically like leaving a typical lamp turned on all the time. It's unlikely you'd even notice a difference in your bill.

Wear and tear... honestly, there isn't a whole lot of difference. Hard drives are build to spin for a very, very long time. In most cases, you'll lose a drive due to data corruption (sectors go bad with reading and writing over time) long before you experience any actual mechanical failure. The fans will keep spinning, but generally slower, and those things are also built to spin for very long periods of time. I have had a few fans go bad, but most of those had additional factors like dust working against them.

Software problems, including memory leaks, depend on the software you're running. If you have bad software, then yeah - running it all the time might cause problems. But a typical Windows (post 98) or Linux machine can run quite happily for as long as you give it electricity without a problem.

Consider that your typical business leaves it's servers on all the time. In my company, we have dozens of servers and I'd guess most of them have been powered off no more than a few hours in the past three years, and they're all fine.

In fact, it's possible that you can experience more wear and tear by shutting down and starting up again. When you start a computer, especially cold, there is a pretty significant temperature change in a short period of time. Temperature changes are more harmful to electronics than constant spinning. Also, during boot-up your drives are spinning much faster than normal, as are your fans.

maybe its just me, but i cringe when people tell me they leave their computer on 24/7, especially when they say they leave it on 24/7 because "it takes so long to boot up!". Thats just alot to sacrifice to just not have to wait 30seconds for your computer to boot up...


It's really not that great a sacrifice, to be honest... the power draw is fairly negligible, as is the wear and tear.

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Clix » Fri Dec 06, 2013 1:57 am UTC

cphite wrote:...snip...
In fact, it's possible that you can experience more wear and tear by shutting down and starting up again. When you start a computer, especially cold, there is a pretty significant temperature change in a short period of time. Temperature changes are more harmful to electronics than constant spinning. Also, during boot-up your drives are spinning much faster than normal, as are your fans.


This is strictly anecdotal, but I've been involved in I.T. in a 24/7 environment for over 15 years and it seems that stuff is more apt to break while we're powering it back up rather then just up and die as it was humming along minding its own business. For some reason monitors really like to do that. (die on power up)

edit for clarity
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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Thesh » Fri Dec 06, 2013 2:08 am UTC

I had two cores going at 100% CPU running Folding@home for over a year before I ran into problems, and that was due to my UPS exploding (literally). There was, however, a noticeable increase in my power consumption.
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poochyena
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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby poochyena » Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:00 am UTC

Thanks, I learned a lot!
I believe all my questions were answered.
I guess i'll be less OCD about people leaving the computer on 24/7 now i guess

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby dudiobugtron » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:54 am UTC

cphite wrote:The amount of electricity you're using is increased, but not by a whole lot. At idle, the average desktop uses under 100 watts - laptops generally less than that. So it's basically like leaving a typical lamp turned on all the time. It's unlikely you'd even notice a difference in your bill.

Is that really true? Aren't the power supplies like half a Kilowatt? And what counts as 'idle' - do you mean just running your OS and whatver 'always on' programs you use?
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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Xenomortis » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:28 am UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:Is that really true? Aren't the power supplies like half a Kilowatt? And what counts as 'idle' - do you mean just running your OS and whatver 'always on' programs you use?

Depends on the power supply.
"Stock" PSUs are typically around 300W.
Better quality ones tend to be around 500W+, and if you have a very powerful computer (think multiple GPUs and extensive cooling) you may need up to a kilowatt.

But just because you have a 1 kilowatt PSU doesn't mean it's always drawing that amount.
Your computer doesn't need much power to idle, but if you start up several instances of Prime95 and furmark, you'll notice your power usage spike (along with temperature).
And of course, if your computer sleeps, it uses bugger all.
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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Jplus » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:24 pm UTC

We call it "idle" when the CPU and GPU aren't doing anything most of the time (e.g. 95%). So yes, that should be the case whenever you're not playing videos or games, are not rendering anything, have no distributed computing clients running in the background, etcetera etcetera.
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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Jorpho » Sun Dec 08, 2013 6:15 pm UTC

EvanED wrote:
Jorpho wrote:I leave my computers running all the time mostly because I don't want to have to save everything and then re-open everything again each day.
That's why I hibernate. :-)
I'm kind of mistrustful of hibernation and the like since it only seems to cause mysterious problems – but I guess it's a whole lot better now than when it was first introduced.

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby cphite » Tue Dec 17, 2013 4:47 pm UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:
cphite wrote:The amount of electricity you're using is increased, but not by a whole lot. At idle, the average desktop uses under 100 watts - laptops generally less than that. So it's basically like leaving a typical lamp turned on all the time. It's unlikely you'd even notice a difference in your bill.

Is that really true? Aren't the power supplies like half a Kilowatt? And what counts as 'idle' - do you mean just running your OS and whatver 'always on' programs you use?


Yes.

The machine I'm running right now is a four-core workstation, fairly well above average in terms of hardware, and if I look at the UPS stats, it's fluctuating between 99 and 105 watts used. Right now I have several applications open, including Outlook, Visual Studio, and Excel - in addition to my browser. If I deploy a project from VS, it jumps to 108 watts.

Typically, you'll see a much larger jump in wattage when starting up a machine, and you'll see it climb when gaming or doing other heavy processing. However, you should rarely, if ever, actually use the max wattage of your power supply.

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Dopefish » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:08 pm UTC

How significant would things like folding@home be on that?

On one hand, the point of it is perhaps to always keep your computer hard at work for the glories of protein folding (or seti or whatever other distributed computer thingummywhatsits people might be using), but at the same time I don't feel like my idle but running F@H computer is doing the same work as some heavy duty video editing either.

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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Thesh » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:38 pm UTC

If you run folding at home you can configure CPU usage. If you let it use all of your cores at 100% it will be like any other CPU-heavy process in terms of power consumption. The only difference is that it runs as a low priority process so that it won't slow anything else down significantly.
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Re: Leaving computer on 24/7: bad or doesn't matter?

Postby Adacore » Thu Dec 19, 2013 1:47 am UTC

I'm not going to try and find it again now, but I'm pretty sure I read some studies a few years ago that fairly definitively determined that hardware life was extended by keeping a computer running, because the majority of degradation on most components comes at startup/shutdown cycles. This is actually true for the vast majority of engineering systems that run at steady state with sporadic shutdowns. You have big surges and spikes in things like power draw and temperature during a startup/shutdown, and those cause much more damage than continued operation.

The software and increased running costs are another matter. You could well experience degradation in performance if your computer is left on for a period of days, and it will certainly cost you a little more.


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