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computer question

Posted by nancy s. on 11/25/03 at 17:17 (138696)

i've had this question for weeks but don't know any computer nuts personally so just kept it to myself.

today it occurred to me: well all these folks at hs.com are on computers! they must know SOMEthing! (maybe you can tell i was the last person in the boston area to get a phone answering machine in the 1980s, was still using an ibm selectric typewriter in 1990, and to this day do not have a cell phone. and that's not all! but i digress.)

a month or two ago we switched from dial-up access to the internet to dsl. this means our phone line is no longer tied up when we're using the computer, so i've been leaving the computer on for long periods of time -- 24 or 48 hours sometimes.

is there an energy reason not to do this? and, come to think of it, is it better for the computer itself that it not be turned on and off all the time?


Re: computer question

Kathy G on 11/25/03 at 17:39 (138700)


I have DSL but I don't stay connected to the internet all day. I have read on many occasions, including in magazines like PC Magazine, that for security reasons, it is best not to stay connected constantly. You run a greater risk of hackers getting into your stystem. You can tell from my explanation that I don't understand 90% of what I read in the magazine but I get it out of the library every couple of months and read it for the 10% I do slightly comprehend. My daughter's former boyfriend works in the computer field and told me the same.

As to keeping your computer on, all the computer experts I know say that you should leave it on as it is better for the computer not to be turned on and off frequently. My computer has a 'standby' feature and I hit that when I'm not using it. That way, it's on, but using a smaller amount of energy. If your computer doesn't have that feature, you should still leave it on but be sure to turn off your monitor. Even with a screen saver, you can burn out the monitor by leaving it on all day.

The only time I turn off our computer is when there are thrunderstorms or high winds in the area and the chance of a power failure. If we're not going to be home for an extended period of time, obviously I turn it off.

Interestingly, a friend of my husbands who fixes computers as his post-retirement job, told me that if there is a chance of a power failure, I should disconnect my telephone cord from my computer as well as turning it off and disconnecting the electrical source. He says that following a power outage, electronic surges in the telephone wires burn out way more computers than surges from the main source of electricity. Strange, but he's the expert so he should know what he's talking about!

I still don't have a cellphone, either. Heck, we got a DVD player last Christmas and have used it only a couple of times. We just still keep renting videos. I don't like to push these things. Besides, by the time I get around to these new technological breakthroughs, the prices are much lower!

Re: computer question

Carole C in NOLA on 11/25/03 at 21:36 (138733)

Nancy, I have kept my computer turned on 24 hours a day for years. I don't turn it off unless I need to do a hard reboot for some reason, or unless there's severe lightning outside. Leaving the computer on is very convenient and also a very common practice, and doesn't seem to cause any perceptible harm to the computer or monitor.

Despite leaving the computer on I have a very low energy bill, and I don't even use the 'hibernate' mode on my computer (which I think is supposed to use less energy). I do turn off all lights in the house except one in the room where I am. That seems to make a big difference in energy usage, but leaving the computer on doesn't.

The one thing that you REALLY need to be careful about with high speed access is computer viruses, Trojan horses, and all the rest. If you are leaving the computer on for long periods of time, you have no choice - - you have to have a firewall and virus checker or you have a high risk of catastrophic consequences.

Carole C

Re: computer question

nancy s. on 11/26/03 at 02:24 (138746)

thanks very much for the thorough info, kathy and carole. you answered everything i was wondering -- much appreciated!


Re: computer question

Sher A on 11/26/03 at 05:44 (138750)

I'd like to add my 2 cents worth, I have cable access and leave the machine on all the time, and not in sleep mode. I turn off the monitor only. However, once a week I do reboot the thing to free up resources that can slow things down. I've heard that it's more stress to the computer to turn it on and off all the time than it is just to leave it going, but the jury could still be out on that. I only power down when I go on vacation.

I have it hooked into a UPS because we get power surges and outages occasionally, and this usually keeps it going long enough for the power to come back. A few years ago I had a dial-up service, we had a severe storm, and my modem got fried. That was before the UPS, and made me a believer in them. In the old days I ran a bulletin board system and NEVER turned the old 286 off because people were logging on all the time. I've never had problems doing this with any computer. At work we just log out of the network, but never shut down, except for the occasional reboot to free up things.

My firewall does a very good job of keeping out intruders, including advertising programs that try to install themselves on my machine. That firewall is probably the most important thing that one can have anymore. I run the virus scanner periodically. And I receive all my emails in plain text, not html format. They take less time to open that way and I don't have to wait for embedded advertising or any other pain in the neck programs to load. Happy Thanksgiving!

Re: computer question

john h on 11/26/03 at 09:45 (138762)

Since both my laptop and desktop at home run on wireless I must turn my computers off as some one may tap in on my DSL and use it for free.

Re: computer question

JudyS on 11/26/03 at 13:30 (138784)

Nancy - it's best to turn it off nightly if you can. For two reasons - so it CAN reboot regularly (keeps 'gaps' off the hard drive) and because, as Carole mentioned, because some internet scalliwags want to cruise connections and 'park' junk on your computer.