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Should you leave your PC on overnight?

Monitor on desk
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Should you leave your PC on overnight? It’s a question that has been asked since personal computers became ubiquitous. There are two sides to the argument. Constantly shutting down and starting up your PC will wear out its components, says one camp. The other side believes that always leaving a computer on causes wear and tear.

So what’s the answer? It depends on how you use your PC. In some cases, leaving your computer on at night is the best course. On the other hand, there are instances when it’s beneficial to shut your PC down.

Should you leave your PC on overnight? Let’s go over the pros and cons.

Good reasons to leave your PC on overnight

Origin PC Millennium on a desk

(Image credit: Origin PC)

1. Convenience

It’s not always convenient to wait for your PC to completely boot up from a power-off state. This is one of the main reasons why you don’t want to shut your computer off at night. Leaving your PC on means it's ready to go whenever you are. This is especially important if you’re working from home.

Granted, this is only really an issue for older machines. If you have a PC released within the past five years that also packs a solid state drive, booting up from a completely powered off state often takes less than a minute. But if you don’t have the patience to wait even that long, you should leave your PC on overnight.

2. Updates, downloads and remote access

Having your computer nag you about system updates can be frustrating when you’re in the middle of a vital task. You can schedule virus scans and system updates to run overnight (or whenever you’re not using your PC). This way, you can focus on whatever you’re doing on your computer without being interrupted. For gamers, it’s good to leave your PC on overnight to download large updates or full games.

If you’ve enabled remote access to your PC via the internet, you’ll need to leave it on if you want to access it while you're away. After all, having remote access to your PC won’t do you any good if you can’t access files on the go. Those running remote servers for services like Plex also need to keep their PCs on all the time.

3. Sleep mode can be spotty

You’d think sleep mode would be the perfect middle ground for folks on opposing sides of the “should you leave your computer on overnight” debate. After all, sleep mode puts your computer in a low-powered state that still allows it to run background tasks. That’s great and all, but anyone with experience will tell you that sleep mode isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I’ve used every iteration of Windows, going from Windows 98 all the way to Windows 11, and have always had problems with sleep mode. More often than not, a computer in sleep mode tends to not want to wake up – necessitating a full system reboot. This is why I always have my power settings set to “Performance” to ensure my PC doesn’t go into sleep mode when I’m away from it for more than ten minutes. Leaving your computer on saves you from the quirks of sleep mode.

Why you should turn your PC off overnight

a person playing games on a PC

(Image credit: MSI)

1. Electricity costs

If you’re trying to lower your electricity bill, it’s good to shut your computer off at night or when you’re not using it for long periods of time. Newer PCs don't require as much energy as older hardware but they still need a fair amount of power to run, especially if you’re doing intensive things like playing video games. Budget-minded folks will want to save every penny so it doesn’t make sense for them to always leave their PCs on.

Note that, in some instances, displays eat up more juice than PCs. So always turn your monitor off whenever you’re not actively using your computer. As far as laptops are concerned, it’s typically okay to leave them on even if they’re plugged in since they rarely consume nearly as much energy as a desktop.

2. Prevent wear and tear

One longstanding common belief is that shutting your computer off and turning it on damages its components. While this is true to some extent, the act isn’t as hazardous with newer machines. However, always keeping your computer on will shorten its lifespan regardless due to natural wear and tear.

Heat is the primary culprit here. Your computer and graphics cards have multiple fans for a reason – heat is just bad for electronics. And then you have the threat of dust – the other enemy of electronics. Dirty components generate more heat as well, creating a vicious cycle. This factor alone is the strongest case for shutting your computer down at night.

Should you leave your PC on overnight?

If you use your computer more than once per day or for a substantial amount of time, it’s best to leave it on. So long as you reboot at least once a week, it’s okay to always keep it powered on. Conversely, you should turn your PC off if you rarely use it (once a week or less), because you'll get smaller electric bills and a bit more life out of your machine.

Despite what you’ve been told from either side of the “should you leave your PC on overnight” camps, there is no correct path that works for everyone. Ultimately, the answer depends on your individual needs. And while this article won’t end the never-ending debate, we hope that we’ve at least steered you to make a choice that works best for you and your computer.

Tony Polanco
Tony Polanco

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.


  • toddlohenry
    Good article! You didn't say anything about security. Do you think leaving your computer on is more of a security risk?
    Reply
  • RobbyBobster
    I love how basically the conclusion of the article is 🤷‍♂️ do whatever suits you.

    You could basically leave your pc on indefinitely with no real problems providing you keep it relatively clean.

    Also you can turn it off and on as many times as you want, the only things that may "wear" are HDD (due to read/write cycles) and maybe fans and pumps (if you are into exotic cooling) Electronics are not the same as mechanical components.

    Even if you did have a pc die due to being on too much, it'd likely be so obsolete you wouldn't be bothered anyway.
    Make sure you dust your pc and perform some maintenance every so often and you shouldn't have a problem.
    Reply