From the Kenosha News on 3-26-06

Save electricity and prevent damage to your computer

A common question from computer users is whether to turn the computer off when not in use or leave it running. My usual rule of thumb is to turn it on when you first use it on any given day and to turn it off when you last use it that day. For work computers, that generally means turning it on in the morning and turning it off before you leave work. For home computers, it will depend on your schedule.

There are two primary reasons to turn off your computer when it will not be used for at least several hours: conserving electricity and preventing damage. During severe electrical storms, a computer that is on stands a much higher risk of damage than one that is turned off. A computer that’s unplugged is at no risk at all, so if you go on vacation for more than a few days, unplug your computer and possibly other electronics. Remember that turning off the monitor will not turn off the computer and vice versa.

Surge suppressors can help prevent damage to your computer by smoothing out power spikes. Note that not every “power strip” is a surge suppressor; some are glorified extension cords that provide no protection at all. Read the package carefully. If the surge suppressor guarantees up to $10,000 of protection against damage or something similar, make sure you keep the receipt for the suppressor and your computer equipment, along with all of the information needed in case of actual damage and a claim.

Another type of damage that can only happen to powered on computers is hacking. If you have an “always on” internet connection like DSL or cable, then your computer is connected to the internet whenever it’s turned on. During this time, it can get viruses or be accessed by hackers even if you’re not using it. No virus can infect a computer while it’s turned off.

As for saving energy, a good web site to understand how much power your computer uses is http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/computers.html. A few important guidelines include the following:

  • A CRT monitor (the big TV kind) probably consumes more energy than the computer itself.
  • An LCD monitor (flat panel) consumes less than half as much energy as a CRT.
  • A laptop consumes 75-80% less energy than a desktop.
  • Screen-savers do not save energy.
  • A computer or monitor in stand-by, sleep, or hibernate mode consumes a negligible amount of energy.

To conserve power during shorter idle times, you can change the power settings on your computer to have it switch to a sleep or hibernate mode. A laptop usually has two different power settings: one for when it’s plugged in and one for when it’s using battery power. Typically, a laptop should be set to conserve more power when on battery to make the battery last longer. To change the power settings, click the Start button and go to Control Panel. If you’re in category view in XP, click Performance and Maintenance. Then click Power Options. On the Power Schemes tab, select the time settings that you prefer and click OK.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 3-26-06