Should You Leave Your Computer On Overnight?

Christopher Null had an odd take on a USA Today story on the supposed harm some of us are doing to the environment by leaving on our computers at night. According to the USA Today story,

U.S. organizations squander $2.8 billion a year to power unused machines, emitting about 20 million tons of carbon dioxide — roughly the equivalent of 4 million cars — according to a report to be released Wednesday.

About half of 108 million office PCs in the USA are not properly shut down at night, says the 2009 PC Energy Report, produced by 1E, an energy-management software company, and the non-profit Alliance to Save Energy. The report analyzed workplace PC power consumption in the USA, United Kingdom and Germany.

That makes sense. I have a low power server at home that I leave on at all times (because it’s actually working on automated tasks 24/7), but for the most part I put the rest of the computers I use into a sleep mode at night. Partly that’s to save energy, partly it is so the entire house isn’t lit up like a Christmas tree from a bajillion LED lights.

But here’s Null’s take on this,

Of course, it’s also a fact that your PC will function better if you restart it regularly, and nightly shutdowns can help you avoid having to suddenly reboot in the middle of the day when you’d otherwise be productive. So even though this little laptop, by my math, eats up only about a quarter’s worth of power overnight, maybe it’s a smart idea — and ultimately a time-saver, too — to shut it down after hours after all.

Okay, that’s retarded. The fact that we’re most of a decade through the first part of the 21st century and users of the major computer OS have to regularly restart is a bug not a feature. It would be interesting to calculate the energy and time lost just in rebooting Windows — I’d wager it is significantly higher than the total cost of leaving machines on all night.

Besides, not all of us use OSes that need to be constantly restarted. I use several machines that regularly go months and even years without needing to be restarted (if I had more redundant power, I could go even longer than that) and with no measurable decline in performance.

What really needs to happen is improvements in the way sleep modes work coupled with the already burgeoning focus on lower power machines.

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