One of the questions I’m asked a lot is:
“Should I put my computer to sleep, leave it on all the time, or shut it down?”
Sounds like a simple question, but actually the answer is a little more complicated than it first seems.
Firstly, you need to decide what you’re willing to accept in terms of start-up time when you next want to power up your computer.
Typically, a machine starting from ‘cold’ (I.E. a full shutdown was performed) will take somewhere between 1 and 4 minutes to fully boot and become usable. For some people this is too long, hence the decision to sleep the computer or leave it on.
Putting the machine to sleep means that it remembers what you were doing when you told it to sleep, and when you wake it back up it brings you back to that point. This typically means you can get started within 30 seconds or so of waking up the machine (newer Windows 7 / Windows 8 machines will resume from sleep almost instantly)
Once you know how long you’re prepared to wait to be able to use your computer, you can compare the cost implications of each option.
- A fully shut-down machine uses next to no power at all. A tiny ‘trace’ current is used at all times to detect when the PC is switched back on, but this typically amounts to around 1 Watt of power.
- A computer on sleep will use around 6 Watts of power, give or take a few Watts. This is because the machine keeps the memory powered up, so that your system can be resumed quickly.
- A running computer will use anywhere between around 80 Watts to 250+ Watts (for gaming or high spec. machines) which is the equivalent of between 2 and 6 rooms of household lighting (40 Watt bulb) being left on!!!
You wouldn’t leave 6 lights on all night long, so unless you really need to access your computer all the time it makes sense to fully shut it down when you’re finished with it.
If you’re heading out for an hour or two, pop the computer to sleep and you’ll be able to start quicker without spending a fortune on energy costs.
Other PC energy saving tips
Adjusting your computer’s power settings can bring good savings in your energy usage. By choosing a more aggressive power saving mode, the machine will turn off devices such as the hard disk drive after a short amount of time – and also put the machine to sleep when it’s not used for a while.
To alter your power settings, click the Start menu, and then ‘Control Panel’ on the right hand side.
Once the Control Panel has loaded, look for the ‘Power Options’ link and click on it. From here, you can choose a more aggressive power saving mode (the ‘Power Saver’ option will make the machine as efficient as possible).
The other thing you can do is fit something like an ‘IntelliPlug’ power device, which is a special power block that shuts down other outlets when the computer is turned off. This allows your power lead to automatically switch off the speakers, printer, monitor, etc.
These can lead to excellent energy saving, as things like speakers tend to be left on 24×7 but are only needed when the computer is in use.