Is it better to shutdown your computer each night or use sleep mode?  This is a debated topic with some feeling that turning a computer on and off a lot will damage components and may decrease lifespan. Others feel that putting a computer to sleep is a waste of electricity.  Let’s look at shutdown vs sleep and see if we can find a winner.

Shutdown vs Sleep Explained

So what is the difference between these two options?  At a high level think of a shutdown as the OS sending a timed notification to all programs to stop before the shutdown.  Sleep is more like your computer is taking a nap.  All open files are stored in RAM (random access memory) which runs in a low power state.

Benefits of a Shutdown

A shutdown is like an off switch to software and hardware components. All opened programs receive a timed notification from the OS to stop reading and writing files before a forced shutdown. Shutdown signals are sent to devices and drivers, slowly cutting power.

Remember, if you force a computer to shut down by holding the power button, you’ll risk file corruption and potential damage to the hard drive.  I am going through this problem with Windows 10 and the repair program.  That has not been a fun problem.

Top Benefits

There are many benefits to doing a shutdown vs sleep.  These include using less power, giving the OS a chance to clean up, and provides better protection from power surges.

Stress on Hardware Components

Older computer components were more susceptible to possible damage from consistently powering the computer on and off, especially the hard drive and fans. Now these parts are manufactured better, so they are able to withstand this kind of stress.  As long as you are not powering on and off constantly, the wear and tear from a daily shutdown is minimal.

Power Consumption

A PC draws a little bit of power when shut down (unless unplugged), it still remains a better energy-saving option. Sleep mode draws power to the RAM to store opened files and programs. This means an increase in electricity usage.

Clean Reboots

Shutdowns clean out minor system issues like bugs, leaked memory, and unused network connections. Also, Windows runs its update in the background and some of these updates require a reboot. If you never power off (or reboot) your computer, all of these issues could cause a decrease in performance and load times.

Power Surges

Although it’s rare, random power spikes and surges can damage your computer when powered on or in sleep mode. Damage includes file corruption, and data loss, which can all lead to an unbootable computer. A shutdown lowers the risk of this type of damage happening to the components.

shutdown vs sleep

Benefits of Sleep Mode

The main benefit of sleep mode is convenience. If your computer is in sleep mode, it can quickly be woken up with a tap of the mouse or keyboard.  This can save you a lot of time each day, especially if you have an older PC that is slow to boot up.

Top Benefits

Think of sleep mode as a way for your computer to take a nap, and we all can use a nap now and then. Open files are stored in the RAM (random access memory) which runs in a low-power state.  This just means things can quickly be up and running when needed.

Saving Time

Most other software and hardware components are also disabled during sleep mode, but can be quickly “woken up” by tapping on the mouse or keyboard.

Powering a computer on from a shutdown requires extra time waiting for it to boot and load all of the necessary files. This can be seen as an inconvenience to those who frequently use a computer throughout the day, as a lot of time is lost waiting for a computer to boot up.

Background Maintenance Programs

Your computer runs important maintenance programs in the background like virus scans, disk cleanup, and system backups, particularly during evening hours.  This can still happen while your computer is in sleep mode.

Unless you schedule these tasks to be done during daytime hours, shutting off your computer may interfere with these necessary programs, which may leave your computer more susceptible to malware.

Shutdown vs Sleep Mode Winner

Ok, you know the answer is “it depends”.  It really is based on preference.  I tend to use sleep mode more as I am impatient and don’t like to wait for the computer to load.  However, I do regularly do a shutdown to let everything get cleaned up and any Windows updates to run.  So, I think the answer is a combo of both.  Use sleep mode most days, and then periodically do a full shutdown.  That mix should keep you covered.

I am going to tell you something I just learned rather painfully.  Windows 10 has a repair function that is a bit troublesome. Once it feels your computer has problems you get into a loop of this repair program auto-running before you can boot up.  This can take hours to run and it does it repeatedly.  The more I research this, it can be caused by doing a hard shutdown repeatedly.  So just remember shutting your computer off repeatedly (especially back to back) can lead to problems.  I am in the middle of trying to fix this issue.  Do a search on “Windows 10 repair loop” and you will see this is a common problem.

Bottom line, do what you feel is best.  If you prefer sleep mode, it is fine just remember to periodically do a shut down (or restart) for the computer to clean itself up and do any updates.  That seems to be a good game plan.

Keep calm and press Ctrl+Alt+Del