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News.com has an article about a recent study which claims that $217 million is wasted each year in the United Kingdom alone due to computers that are left on when unused. The article also highlights the ongoing confusion concerning when to turn off or on a computer. Advocates exist on both sides. Here’s what to know:
Environmentalists would have you turn off your computer every minute it is not in use. It isn’t a coincidence that findings from the study above were released at the beginning of the UK’s energy saving week. If everyone were to make a conscious effort to turn off their computers more frequently, there’s no arguing that this could be better for the environment.
However, others argue that the life of a computer can be significantly reduced if constantly turned off and on (though some believe this to be unfounded and difficult to prove). Obviously extreme measures can be taken on either side (i.e., never turn off your computer vs. turn it off every time you step away from your desk) that are impractical.
Another reason in favor of turning off the computer, which is often neglected, is that of keeping it running in its most reliable state. As you open and close programs and files, Windows tends to leave traces of everything you’ve done running in the background (this is oversimplified but the easiest way to explain it) causing the computer to slow down and/or be less stable. Thus, if you’ve had dozens of documents or programs open throughout a day, it’s best to turn off the computer at the end of the day so as to maximize performance and reliability for the next day.
Also, some monitors have higher power consumption than most computers. So just by turning off your monitor, you could be doing quite a bit for the environment. Whatever power usage fits your needs, remember that most of it can be automated using Windows Power Options, which is explained in detail in this article.